What coloring in my mid 30s has taught me…

Originally posted at ThirdSpaceWellness.com

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, I’m sure you’ve noticed the coloring books for adults trend. (Note: My husband would like to point out that he’s been coloring way before “the craze.”) Anyway… I’m glad it’s caught on. It’s an incredibly soothing activity. You can either clear your mind as you color or observe your thoughts as they come in. It has provided so much clarity during stressful times.

Coloring has taught me a few things over the years:

  • That coloring between the lines is harder than it sounds
  • That you can live with your mistakes – moving forward rather than scrapping everything and starting over
  • That you can scrap everything and start over
  • That you have to look at a picture up close and then look at it from afar to see it completely
  • That you can plan your approach but you better be ready for some spontaneity
  • That the right tools will make all the difference
  • That creativity lies in all of us
  • That genius ideas can come when you’re busy doing something else

Whether you decide to work on a coloring book or paint a canvas or take up origami, find an activity that allows you to create and focus. You might be surprised about what you’ll learn about yourself or for yourself. And if you’ve tried it, how did you do?

That time of year…

…When allergies are kicking in… My nose is itchy, my eyes are red and breathing through my nose is a luxury. But you know what? It is a sign of some really beautiful days in the sun to come. Below are some of the things I’m looking forward to:

  1. Cracking crabs and sharing rum buckets on Kent Island
  2. Baseball games and hotdogs
  3. Mussels at Fells Point
  4. An outdoor concert at Wolf Trap
  5. MY BIRTHDAY
  6. Sitting outside on my balcony
  7. Summer veggies (tomatoes!)
  8. Wineries in the afternoon
  9. Hiking/kayaking
  10. Any and all outdoor events/activities

I do my best to mark the arrival of a new season but I am most excited about Spring. Then Summer and even Fall.

How do you welcome the seasons? How do you plan on celebrating the warmer days?

Hawaii Beach

Where have I been?

I know I have been quiet over here. But with very good reason! I am working on a wellness center in Silver Spring, Maryland with my partners, Joy Andrews (@AcupunctureJoy) and Rachel Brumberger (@RLCBrumberger)!

Introducing THIRD SPACE WELLNESS.

Will this blog go away? No, I will continue to share posts on this page which may not fit the Third Space Wellness blog. Though I may be a little short on time these days.

So stay tuned and thanks for your patience!

Real life lessons from “The Walking Dead”

1.  Leaders come in all shapes and sizes and he (or she) will step up to the plate every time.

2.  If it is too good to be true, well, it probably is some loon with an aquarium full of heads in his house.

3.  Good people are capable of doing bad things and bad people are capable of doing good things.

4.  Trust your instincts.

5.  Have a posse. It is messy sometimes but it’s the only way you’re gonna make it.

6.  Duct tape is your friend.

7.  Zombies don’t have feelings.

Okay, okay, you could probably learn these things from any zombie apocalypse story. But it is important to be reminded of it now and then. Especially the part about duct tape. That thing is so darn handy.

Getting through the ups and downs

You know when someone says, “I’m sure it’ll be fine” and you lunge at their neck while screaming, “How the hell do you know?”

No? Just me?

I am not a full-time yoga teacher. (It’s a pretty nourishing side gig as far as side gigs go.) But I just don’t have any desire to do it day-in and day-out. I do have a day job – a good one. One I don’t mind coming into even though it occasionally drives me batty. (That’s what yoga is for!)

But, yesterday, I was told that I might lose that job. The contracting company I work for didn’t win the re-bid for the project I am on. So the new company can either replace me with someone else, offer me the job with a significant pay cut or keep everything the same (the ideal situation, of course). As a pragmatist, I am definitely updating my résumé and holding off on major expenses. I am also trying not to freak out.

“What if they cut my pay? What happens to my benefits? My 401k? What if my new supervisors are jerks?”

Uncertainty is a bitch.

But one thing is keeping me from Meltdown City…

A few months ago in one of my yoga books, I came across a Chinese parable. There are many versions of it but all have a very similar gist and it goes like this:

A farmer and his son had a beloved stallion who helped the family earn a living. One day, the horse ran away and their neighbors exclaimed, “Your horse ran away, what terrible luck!” The farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see.”

A few days later, the horse returned home, leading a few wild mares back to the farm as well. The neighbors shouted out, “Your horse has returned, and brought several horses home with him. What great luck!” The farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see.”

Later that week, the farmer’s son was trying to break one of the mares and she threw him to the ground, breaking his leg. The villagers cried, “Your son broke his leg, what terrible luck!” The farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see.”

A few weeks later, soldiers from the national army marched through town, recruiting all the able-bodied boys for the army. They did not take the farmer’s son, still recovering from his injury. Friends shouted, “Your boy is spared, what tremendous luck!” To which the farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see.”

This story is often told when teaching non-attachment. For me, it very clearly conveyed that not all good things are good and not all bad things are bad. It’s best not to get attached to the present situation. I have experienced that some good things have led to bad things and some bad things have resulted in good things. Like when I was happy about being able to get on a crowded elevator in SOHO because I was in a rush and then my elevator ended up being stuck between floors for three hours in 95-degree temperatures… (I no longer run after elevators by the way).

Maybe I’ll lose this job. Maybe I’ll find another job. A better job. Or a worse job that will force me to pursue another line of career, which could lead to who knows what? Fame? Fortune? Glory? For better or for worse, the possibilities are endless!

So I don’t have a panacea to offer you when things aren’t going well. But I am sharing this story with you because it gets me through rough times – especially during times of uncertainty. I hope it helps you as well.

In the meantime I’ll be playing “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” on repeat.

Rainbow

It could have been worse

Right now I am sitting outside on my balcony. It’s a beautiful day. I’m wearing shorts and an old shirt. I have a glass of ice-cold lemonade nearby and my favorite songs are playing. A soft breeze just picked up to remind me to take a deep breath and acknowledge how perfect things are right at this very moment.

Life feels really easy.

It has been far from being a perfect day. In fact, I started the day seeing that someone had hit my car and left without a note… again. While assessing the damage, a person who has made my family and me uncomfortable rode by on his bike and said hello and lingered as if we weren’t one incident away from getting a restraining order against him. After that, I went for a run and felt like I was being chased by all the unpleasant feelings those two events had generated.

So how did I get from this morning’s ugliness to this afternoon’s calm? Well, at first I felt out of control, angry and disappointed. And I thought my day was ruined when I so desperately needed to relax, rest and work quietly. I wanted to salvage the day but didn’t know how until this thought popped into my head, “It could have been worse.” And, boy, did I have enough experiences to know how bad “worse” can be. For example, the damage could have made my car undriveable. Crazy guy could have been wielding a machete. It could have started to rain… And a million other things that could have aggravated the circumstances.

And you know what? That single thought changed the trajectory of my day. I could breathe a little more. I could enjoy this lovely, quiet day and find ease in my body despite this morning’s chaos. This moment of peace is enough to get me through the next few past, present and future unhappy events. Sure, I could use more money, more responsibilities at work, more space at home, less stress on my commute… I’m not happy all the time but more importantly I’m not UNhappy all the time either. It’s true that life is hard. Which is why one of my favorite quotations is by the Dread Pirate Roberts from The Princess Bride. He said,

“Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.”

We can add to our suffering by holding on to pain tightly and relentlessly. But how exactly does that serve us? Sometimes life really sucks (and it certainly doesn’t need our help to make it so) but it doesn’t always and those small (or big) good moments are what’s going to get you through the rough ones. So recognize when things are good as much as we recognize when things are the pits.

There are many ways to find ease in a hard life. And only you have the right tools to make it happen. Only you can allow yourself to find that ease. And your way will look different from someone else’s. For some it’s a long bike ride, for others it’s a good book or movie… Sometimes it is wallowing in the crappiness of it all. We have to be good to ourselves in whatever way that we can. Even if it means loosening up some of the hard and fast rules that govern our lives.

So how do YOU find or create ease in your life?

Balcony

Finding your yoga home

Some of the obstacles to getting started in yoga is not knowing what type of yoga is right for you. There are many different styles of yoga and sometimes the best way to find out if you like something or not is to try it for yourself.

Yogitastic with her mat

But just to help you along, below are brief descriptions of the most popular yoga styles in the U.S.:

Ashtanga – In this style there are six established (and strenuous) pose sequences. Meaning there’s a series 1, series 2, etc. Yogis move rapidly from one pose to another, combined with deep, controlled breathing. Also referred to as power yoga.

Hatha – All yoga poses are considered hatha but more popularly when referring to a type of class it means it is slower-paced, gentle and focused on breathing and meditation.

Bikram – Created by Bikram Choudhury. This style is a series of 26 poses (each performed twice) in a nearly 105º room with 40% humidity.

Hot yoga – This style is similar to Bikram only in that the room is warmer than your average room but only from 85º to 95º. The lower temperature is more manageable while still benefitting from the warm room which helps with flexibility.

Iyengar – Founded by B.K.S. Iyengar. This form of yoga focuses on precise alignment and deliberate sequencing. Props are used in this class to helps students to get into the right position.

Anusara – Created by John Friend (who is awesome, by the way). This style of yoga also focuses on precise alignment like Iyengar but taps into the more spiritual (and fun) aspects of yoga. Expect a lot of “heart-opening” poses like backbends.

Jivamukti – Created by Sharon Gannon and David Life. A typical class includes a theme, some chanting and references to ancient scripture weaved into the physical practice. It is rooted heavily in yoga philosophy and traditions.

Kundalini – This practice is intended to release the kundalini (serpent) energy of the root chakra (area around your lower spine). Movements are intense and with a lot of work on core. There is also a lot of sitting. This one thoroughly kicked my butt.

Restorative – This style of yoga is heaven on earth. The poses for this class focus more towards relaxation. Props like blankets, bolsters and eye pillows help yogis to sink into their breath and let go. Stressed out? This is the yoga practice for you.

Vinyasa – My favorite style of yoga. Also commonly known as flow, like ashtanga, yogis rapidly flow from one pose to the next with attention to the breath. Most vinyasa classes are taught with music. (And I love that!)

Yin – This practice involve more passive stretches held for longer periods of time (read: not a cake walk). For those people (like me) who have a more fiery practice, this style of yoga is the perfect balance to cool down with.

Sometimes you’ll see a class labeled Yoga I/II. If the studio isn’t clearly affiliated with a style of yoga, it probably means that the teacher combines or blends several teaching styles in her classes. If you have never tried yoga, it’s best to start at Yoga I. As you improve, then you can move up to Yoga II then Yoga III.

I hope this helps get you on your yoga journey. If you have any questions, please let me know!

P.S. I teach a Yoga I/II class every Thursday at 7:00 PM in Silver Spring. I mix different styles of yoga and share a theme with my students. Questions and requests for clarification are always welcome. Come and join me next time!