Off Your Mat

Bringing yoga off your mat into your life, one pose at a time.


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Dear Prince,

I learned of your death on my lunch break. I opened the news and read the headline. I found myself blinking back tears. I did not realize how connected I felt to you until you were gone. You were my high school and college soundtrack, you were the song I always turned up.

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I texted my sister and friends. I listened to tribute stations. I poured over every article. I was grateful for the collective grief. I was glad Paris and New York were lit up in purple. You deserve it.

The news soon turned, first speculating, then confirming your overdose. In the little I have learned about your purposely private life, I can only guess that you would not have wanted these articles picking apart your every move, examining your family, describing your lonely body, silent and still in an elevator.

I know when the toxic hand of addiction wraps itself around a person’s heart and seeps into their blood, it is godless, soulless, friendless, without empathy, and brutally selfish. It steals away our most loving, talented, smart and kind people. They become vacant, then gone.

If you were struggling with an opiate addiction, I know your wealth, fame, need for privacy, and insistence on complete control could have made it difficult, if not impossible, to get the kind of help you needed. I also know the people closest to you might not have had the skills to understand what was happening. Without a clear working knowledge of what you are looking at, opiate addiction is hard to see close up. Addicts can be brilliant at blurring the lines and boundaries between help and hurt.

If the reports about some of the doctors are true, I have no words for them. They had an opportunity to help you. They didn’t.

Even while you were surrounded by a team of people, I’m sure you felt alone. Even with seemingly limitless resources, I’m sure you felt trapped. Despite your carefully cultivated aloof image, there must have been a terrified part of you that could see what was happening. There must have been another equally terrified part of you that could not stop. You might have felt shame and fear of being exposed. You might have made promises to yourself or God and found you could not keep them.  You might have rationalized away the choices that frightened you.

On stage, you never slipped up. You were perfection, always in command, lovingly inclusive with your collaborations, joyfully pushing limits. We looked to you, knowing you would transport us. You always delivered, bringing us with you every time. You became something a little more than human.

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As far-fetched and naive as it sounds, I wish we could have helped you. For all the joy, release and affirmation you gave, I wish all the millions that loved you could have known that our perfect song genius, our James Brown-Jimmy Hendrix love child, our beloved matador-harlequin-pixie-minotaur-pimp-daddy-preacher-soul-funk man needed help.

I wish we had known just how human and vulnerable you were, just like us.

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Talking ’bout a Resolution

new year resolutionsHere are the numbers:

According to a government survey, over 30% of people give up on their resolutions before the end of January, and another 30% quit before the end of May. In fact, only 8% of people regularly succeed in keeping the promises they made as that ball dropped.

The top resolutions for 2015 are to lose weight, get organized and spend less money. Sadly, the majority of these promises are abandoned within 8 days of January 1st. This poor showing happens because people make lofty goals without the plan to execute them.

The New Year’s Resolution is not a magical wish granted by the Baby New Year Genie. Like any other goal, our resolutions take planning and effort to achieve.

Your resolution is a promise to yourself. It is just as important as a promise you would make to a friend or a family member. Here are few tips for a making a resolution that won’t get tossed out with the tree.

1) Make small specific goals instead of a big whopper.

Instead of saying “I will lose 25 pounds,” say “I will take the stairs instead of the elevator.” Or “I will walk for 40 minutes after dinner.”

Instead of saying “I will be more charitable,” say “I will participate in one coat drive and one food drive.” Or “I will contact my neighbor who does a turkey drop every year and ask her if I can participate.”

When the goals are broken down into small, less intimidating steps, they will simply become part of your to do list.

2) Set a schedule.

Work your goals into your daily calendar. They will become concrete tasks instead of an idea that can be put off for another day.

If your goal is to be more connected to your friends, note it in your calendar. Schedule time to make phone calls or write emails. Schedule an hour for lunch with a friend. These things don’t happen unless you make the time.

If you are trying to save money, set up an automatic deposit to your savings account. If you are giving up an expense, create a schedule around it.

For example: “Instead of going to Starbucks everyday, I will only go on Mondays.” Or “I will pack my own lunch Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.”

3) Make it social.

Don’t isolate yourself. Your resolution is not a punishment.

If you committed to being more organized, set a date with a friend to clean out your closet. Or block out 2 hours with your kids to declutter the basement. Make it an event and treat them to something afterwards.

If fitness is your goal, make a weekly workout date with a friend. Join a class with a friend that you wouldn’t normally do alone.

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Most importantly, remember, this is your promise to yourself and it is just as important as a promise that you would make to any loved one.

Want some more resolution tips? Take a look here.


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The Practice of Perspective

plane window photo

A view from above

Time does more than tick mindlessly, measuring out moments and rationing minutes. It heals too.

I remember as a teenager being embroiled in a heartbreaking social tangle. I sat at my childhood kitchen table lamenting the situation with tears welling in my eyes. My mother reassured me saying, “I can tell you that in a few years this will mean nothing.”

She was right. All I can remember from that moment is my mother’s words. I have no idea what actually caused the tears.

Now my daily life hustles across a grid marked by time. School drop off at 8:30, work by 9:00, 60 minutes for lunch, pick up by 4:45, swim class by 6, my eyes search out the dashboard clock as my own digital sherpa.

street chalk art optical illusion

I rarely notice how this endless current of time is slowly softening edges and smoothing rough spots. If I choose to stop and think about what might have had my stomach in a knot last year at this time, it becomes really clear that things have changed and that particular worry has dissipated on its own.

It causes a reevaluation of current worries. If they don’t matter a year from now, do they matter at all?

Even time, that is often viewed as a taskmaster, can be re-framed as a gentler force, kind enough to ease fears and tensions just by keeping its constant measured pace.

Reminding us, that a little perspective can change everything.

 


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The Brave Pose: The Practice of Facing Fears

Having fear is part of being human. The trick is to not allow your fear to drive your choices. Being brave doesn’t mean there is an absence of fear.  It means you are afraid and you are doing it anyway.dancer on rock

Yoga practice allows us to build the skill of facing our fears. The seemingly small practice of pushing our boundaries on the mat strengthens our abilities to do the same in our life. There is a terrific article in Yoga Times addressing this very issue. Facing our fears gives us the freedom to be brave.

There are a lot of things to be afraid of in this world. I avoid watching the news for that very reason. It’s not that I do not want to be informed. It’s that I don’t want to be terrified.

I have to remind myself that broadcast news is a business driven by viewers and the more terrified or titillated we are, the longer we are likely to watch. It is the job of the news program to evoke deep emotion from us as quickly as possible, resulting in the broadcast rule, if it bleeds, it leads.

Mosul mosque bombed by ISIS in Iraq care of LA Times

Lately, the news has been particularly bloody.

For weeks I’ve been thinking that my gentle yoga-based Sunday blog was not the place to process the beheadings, wars, and daily acts of violence that seem to be escalating in my news feed.

Today, I decided I would be a hypocrite not to acknowledge it.

Violence is born from fear. Fear of losing power or control. In turn, violence is used to create fear in others. Actions born from fear are usually wrong and often destructive. It’s a vicious cycle.

Some of us live with it daily, close to war zones or facing battle. Some of us see it on the news. For those of us who observe it from afar, we can not afford to be ignorant of what is happening. The sad truth is that we are all vulnerable to this violence.

I learned that on September 11, 2001, when I stepped out of a deli a mile from where the planes hit. I saw the pillar of smoke rising from the World Trade Center. I watched the second plane fly into the second building. I smelled the acrid air and saw people in shock, covered in dust making their way north up Sixth Avenue.9-11-september-11-2001-32144945-500-357Twenty hours later, I got back to my apartment in Queens. I stayed there for three days. I couldn’t imagine going back to work in Manhattan.

Then, I realized that hiding in my apartment wasn’t going to stop my fear.  I had to choose between letting my fear paralyze me or getting out there and living, terror and all.

I got out there.

Now, I see the terrible images floating in my news feed online. It makes me want to crawl into bed and pull the covers over my head. It makes me want to home school my daughter for the purpose of never letting her out of my sight. It makes me want to avoid all travel.

That isn’t what I’m going to do. Not because I’m fearless, but because I refuse to let my decisions be controlled by my fears. I will not miss out on all the good things that can happen, because I’m afraid of the bad things that might happen. That is my miniscule act of bravery.

The truly brave people are the ones that continue to head toward those dangers and conflicts driven by beliefs much stronger than their fears.