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
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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

Karma is as karma does (aka An ode to the guy who hit my car)

My poor car

Yesterday, someone hit my car in the parking garage and drove off without a note. We’re not talking love tap here. This person hit my car so hard that it ripped a hole in my back bumper, then he (or she) drove off without a word.

I was so mad that I ran out of expletives. I yelled, “I hope karma gets that bastard!”

But then I thought, what if this was MY karma coming back to me? Then my mind turned to my day wondering what I could have done to deserve this… I’m pretty sure I wasn’t a jerk wad to anyone today but maybe I wasn’t as nice as I could have been… And so on and so forth in a downward spiral. My mind stuck on this idea that I deserved to get my bumper hit and forced to pay the painful deductible. And, honestly, I felt crappy about it. I felt crappy about myself.

This is why I struggle with karma.

According to Merriem-Webster, karma is “the force generated by a person’s actions held in Hinduism and Buddhism to perpetuate transmigration and in its ethical consequences to determine the nature of the person’s next existence.” Some simply define it as “you reap what you sow.” But karma isn’t that simple. Your life is affected not just by the things you think or do in this lifetime – it could be from a past life! Additionally, karma isn’t restricted to actions. Good behavior motivated by less than perfectly altruistic intentions will still generate bad karma. That is, you can’t do good things for the sole purpose of generating good karma (because that’s self-serving). The good or bad seeds that you plant in one lifetime could manifest itself in the same lifetime or in the next. Karma works in mysterious ways!

Maybe nice is not the first adjective you would assign to me (kind or sweet probably aren’t either). But I go through my day inflicting as little pain as I can to others. I keep to myself. I do what needs to be done. I don’t cheat or commit fraud. I play by the rules. If I can help, I do. If I didn’t make someone’s day, then at least I didn’t make it worse.

Nevertheless, bad stuff happen to good people. Good people like me.

I would like to think that good deeds are rewarded and that bad deeds are punished. But I struggle with the idea that I (or others) did something to deserve the bad things/events in our lives. And that I won’t ever know whether it was this action or another one. I wouldn’t even know if it was in this lifetime or a previous one! I don’t need to walk on the moon myself to believe that it isn’t made of cheese but the fact that you can’t prove the existence of karma or predict how it works makes it hard to swallow. It’s all a little too convenient – like whether God hears your prayers or not. If what you want doesn’t happen, then God must have an alternate plan for you. (<~Yup, I’m going straight to hell for that one. Sorry, Mom!)

Karma tells you to live a life where doing something good is its own reward but how do you escape the idea that if I do good, I will reap good things? Sounds more like true altruism doesn’t exist – not even for Mother Theresa.

I don’t think that life is meaningless or purposeless. I’m not denying that I can’t see patterns or causality in my life because I do but I also feel like sometimes things just happen and we can’t do a damn thing about it. Other than come up with a rationalization that helps us sleep at night… The Indigo Girls expressed it best when they sang in “Galileo:”

And then you had to bring up reincarnation
Over a couple of beers the other night
And now I’m serving time for mistakes
Made by another in another lifetime
How long till my soul gets it right?
Can any human being ever reach that kind of light?

I am not a karma expert. What little I know about it is a shallow understanding at best. But as of now there is no place for it in my life. Reality is hard enough as it is without feeling ambiguously bad about myself. Maybe the person who hit my car will get his just desserts or maybe he won’t. I will never know and I am okay with that.

The Alchemist is full of crap

Yeah, I said it.

The Alchemist with its message of the universe conspiring to make our dreams come true is (in my humble opinion) a bunch of baloney. When I first read the book 10 years ago, I was totally on board. I wanted to believe it. I bought it hook, line and sinker.

So did everyone else apparently. As of 2012, this book has been translated into at least 56 languages and has sold over 30 million copies.

Universe in a teardrop

But my feelings about it over the years have changed. Why? Because we don’t function in a vacuum. Our actions have consequences and affect others. If one person wins, it means there are losers. Picture this scenario: What if your goal is to win a baseball game or be the best team ever? Well, the universe conspiring to make that happen for you means it’s working against the other team. And all I can say to that is “WTF?!? Not cool, Universe.” That kind of arbitrariness is not something I want to live with. Not to mention that karma will tell you that wishing that kind of bad juju on someone else is going to land you in a whole heap of trouble. (Disclaimer: I am not necessarily a believer of the machinations of karma either).

So what do I believe? Personally, I take huge comfort in the idea that the universe is neither working for me or against me. Things just are – whether they’re beautiful or ugly. Imagine how much better it would feel for everyone if we were all prepared for and accepted whatever life threw our way? I don’t mean settling or compromising but more like doing our best and if things don’t go well despite our efforts, then so be it. That’s just how it’s going to be. Peace and coming to terms with unpleasant things happens so much more quickly when I don’t spend time trying to analyze and re-analyze everything. Ultimately, we will never know the “why” behind the events in our lives anyway. Though I guess you could then argue that it doesn’t matter what you believe or what rationalization you attach to life events… (If that works for you, why not?)

We are all so caught up in trying to find the meaning of life or trying to figure out how the universe works. Whether things happen for a reason… Or whether if we behaved in some terrible way (in this life or a past one) and simply “got what was coming to us…” I don’t know if spending time trying to figure that out serves a purpose when the truth will never be known. Why can’t we just be good to ourselves and others?

Like the Staple Singers sing in their song “Respect yourself:”

If you’re walkin’ round think’n that the world
owes you something ’cause you’re here,
You goin’ out the world backwards like you did
when you first come here…

But in case I am wrong and the Universe really is paying attention, then I would like him to know that I am still interested in, nay, dedicated to winning the lottery. And that I’m being good, praying to him every night and I have left him some milk and cookies for when he comes down my chimney. 🙂

Photo via Flickr (Creative Commons) by H.Koppdelaney.

I believe…

…that there is no such thing as a panacea (not even yoga). That to be better takes concerted effort using a myriad of solutions and tools.

…that suffering is a necessary evil. We are better people for it.

…that denying yourself builds character but occasionally giving in generates more happiness.

…that you can never be too kind to yourself.

…that you can have happiness NOW.. not when you’re thinner, richer or partnered up.

…that being happy doesn’t mean never being sad (or angry).

…that gratitude will change your perspective. Every. Single. Time.

…that embracing the unknown can be incredibly liberating.

…that surrounding yourself with people and things you love is medicine for the soul.

…that it’s up to us to define and shape our lives. Not societal precepts.

Sunset

“…above all treasure love, moderation and humility. Love begets courage, moderation creates abundance and humility generates power. Courage without love is brutish. Abundance without moderation leads to over-indulgence and decay. Power without humility breeds arrogance and tyranny.” – B. K. S. Iyengar

What do YOU believe?

Photo via Flickr (Creative Commons) by DavidYuWeb.

Resolution! Schmezolution!

Ever hear the joke that “my last New Year’s resolution was to stop making New Year’s resolutions?”

Okay, okay, you probably heard ME say it. (It just doesn’t get old!)

Frankly, I find resolutions to be a little silly so I don’t make them. Instead I set an intention for the new year with a list of actions that will help me with that intention.

For example, last year my intention was to become more courageous. So I  thought about what I have been afraid of (mostly failure) and how it is holding me back. Then I thought about some courageous actions I could take to encourage the behavior. Two really big ones were finally teaching my first Spinning class and learning to cook a dish (any dish). I accomplished both during the last quarter of the year. (The intention was to find more courage – not stop procrastinating after all). Taking larger chances, committing to things that are outside of my comfort zone and making new connections are a few other actions that contributed to my intention. It has made 2012 a phenomenal year.

But what is the difference between intention-setting and making resolutions, you ask? Well, I find resolutions to be uninspiring and a bit cliché – as cliché as breaking them. Most people promise to lose weight or “get in the best shape of their life” in the new year. But it doesn’t answer WHY? To what end? For what purpose? Or even how! The “why” is the motivation to keep going when temptation is just too… well, tempting. And without a clear call to action for sticking to the resolution you’re almost guaranteed to fail.

Losing weight just to lose weight without clear, measurable steps can falter in the face of a lot of beer and chicken wings paired with the best blue cheese you ever put in your mouth. (Sorry, I got distracted). On the other hand, setting your intention and then listing the actions to support that intention will expand your ability to get to where you want to go because you’re not limited to one action. After all, there are many ways to complete a journey.

So in a life where you have set an intention, imagine painting a bigger picture of your world! Imagine better things for yourself! Imagine expanding your sphere of influence! Then let’s go and make it happen!

Now tell me, what are your intentions for 2013 and what actions will you take to fulfill it?

Fireworks

Happy New Year!

Photo via Flickr (Creative Commons) by Bayasaa.

When pride is a good thing…

A few days ago I went surfing for the first time in my life.

I love the ocean… From afar, that is. Getting into the water without the protection of a boat or inflated arm floaties is something I never do. I have always been very afraid of submerging my head under water. Be it in a pool, the ocean or a river, I absolutely hate the sensation of water up my nose and not being able to breathe. In fact, I still pinch my nose and squeeze my eyes shut when dunking my head to get my hair wet.

And so it was with a lot of trepidation that I approached my first ever surfing class. Heart racing. Palms sweaty. Eyes dilated in sheer panic. But I knew I had to do it. It was not a question of whether I would try it but whether I would make it. I am happy to report that the only damages incurred were one lost contact lens, a huge intake of salt water and a bruised right hip.

Floaties

When I tell people about my surfing experience, their instant reaction is to say how impressed and proud they are of me. I would modestly smile and brush it off. But for whatever reason, when my friend, Rachel, told me she was proud of me, something clicked. It occurred to me that though I was hearing people saying this, I had not said it to myself. I had not acknowledged my own good work.

When she drove away, I took a moment and said to myself, “I am proud of me.” And this warm feeling started in my heart, spread out to my arms and legs all the way out to the top of my head and I felt giddy! “Holy crap! I am awesome!” I practically skipped up my driveway!

I had overcome this super scary thing – way out of my comfort zone… When in the past I had let my fears dictate my decisions. I needed to recognize that I am this person who pushes up against her very edges. So I deserved a pat on the back – not from others but from myself. I don’t tell myself enough how proud I am of me. I don’t always make big courageous decisions but I make brave choices all the time. Whether it’s trying a new dish, learning to do something or going up to a complete stranger. I take the harder road when easier ones are available. I continue on when many might have given up.

When I talk about pride, I am not talking about switching teams. I am talking about more than just accepting compliments from others but recognizing all the good things within ourselves and projecting it out to the world. We are good whether or not others see us and shower us with accolades. It is most important that we recognize within ourselves the work we have accomplished, the work we continue to do and the work we WILL accomplish.

So be proud of yourself and let your freak flag fly!

How have you celebrated yourself today?

Photo via Flickr (Creative Commons) by Board Shanty.