Yoga and Life

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At the start of the New Year, I resolved to practicing daily yoga and meditation. I’ve been doing yoga off and on for about four years. But if you’re off for two months and then on for three, and then off for another two, it is impossible to attain any of the life-changing benefits yoga offers. This past year I was disciplined enough to not go months without doing yoga and I have seen amazing results, but this year I will be better.

The first thing yoga taught me was to breathe. You may be thinking “who the heck needs to be taught how to breathe?” I know. I know. Breathing is the first thing we do when we enter this world. We take a breath via a cry, or a scream. What’s so hard about doing something every living being must do to survive? Well, everything and I was doing it wrong.

Through yoga I learned Ujjayi Pranayama. Ujjayi breathing is a technique of the breath which can be referred to as “the ocean breath.” Pranayama is a Sanskrit word that means “extension of the breath.” Prana means “life force” and Ayama means “to draw out.” Ujjayi Pranayama is usually associated with asana practice, the practice of sitting down (or any posture that helps with flexibility). Sitting still while restoring one’s mind is one of the tremendous benefits of yoga. Being able to stretch and attain certain positions brings peace to both body and mind.

But starting yoga is hard, especially if you aren’t flexible. I wasn’t flexible at all when I first stepped onto my mat. I couldn’t touch my toes without bending my knees, but every day I practiced, I got closer and the breath is what kept me from giving up. On the mat I learned to breathe through uncomfortable positions – not scattered breath – but long, deep breathing. A yogi or yogini takes what he or she learns on the mat into their daily life. I carried this technique with me throughout my day by not holding my breath in stressful situations. Breathing keeps the mind calm.

I touch my toes comfortably now and all forward bends (sitting and standing) are my favorite asanas. We hold past relationships in our hips so forward bends are a great way to release negative energies lingering from former lovers. The pose I once loathed has become an integral part of my practice. Such is the way with yoga? (Maybe one day I’ll be able to say that about the head stand, which I refuse to even attempt.)

After consistent practice, a yogi/yogini discovers what kind of diet works better with his/her practice. I have switched to a vegetarian diet because I have found it it works really well with the asanas. A vegetarian diet doesn’t interfere with all the bending and twisting positions in my practice. I feel this way of eating enhances my ability to perform each asana and because there’s a lot of self-reflection in yoga/mediation, it is beneficial to adhere to a compassionate diet.

A few days ago, I committed to doing two daily twenty-minute meditations for forty days as a way to clear my mind and begin a positive habit that I hope transforms into a life-long practice because meditation reminds me to live in the moment. I can’t change the past nor can I predict the future, but I can appreciate the now. My favorite mantra that I use in my mediation is “In this moment, all is well.”

In meditation I listen and am mindful. I’m not perfect in carrying this into my daily life, but I work at it.

“Listen more, talk less.” – Buddha.

Namaste.

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Photos courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net

Credit to Wikepedia for the exact definitions I used.

No Regrets

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The days remaining of 2014 have hit the single digits and when a new year approaches, reflection over the past year can bring forth profound emotions. There will be regrets. Some big. Some small. But hopefully with those regrets come moments one wishes to relive everyday for the rest of his or her life.

2014 had a few of those moments for me.

I published my first book this year and my second will be out early next year. Being a published author had always been my dream and the timing of that dream coming to fruition couldn’t have been more perfect. It came while I was at an extremely low point in my life and the news gave me the lift I desperately needed. I finally had a reason to be proud.

For the moment, I was assured I could offer this world, this life, something, anything. I felt the satisfying emotion of self-worth that every person needs to feel in order to live each day with the confidence that he or she belongs here.

It’d been a long time since I felt I had accomplished anything and the sensation that ran through me when I finally achieved this was life-saving. But once the jubilation of signing my first book contract eased, I realized, “Holy Crap! I need to do it all over again!”

Yes. I had to get to work on my second book because nobody wants to be a one-trick pony. I hit more walls while writing that second book because the inspiration just wasn’t there. Not like it was with the first book, but eventually, I finished it and sent it to my editor. She liked it and contracted it. (Thank you, Jeanne!)

I’m in a much better place going into this new year than I was at this time last year. I was still a month away from being published and filled with severe doubt about everything I did. In some psychic way, I knew how much was riding on the outcome of my submission to the small epublishing company I had discovered online. I wrote the query letter but was cowardly close to not sending it at all. My emotions were out of control. I was crying a lot and was certain that I was in no state of mind to handle a rejection.

Looking back, reflecting on this past year, I’m relieved I took a chance with my writing. Sure, I had risked getting rejected and crying more than I already was, but I would have gotten over it eventually because I knew I couldn’t live with asking myself “what-if?” all the time. It only brings regrets.

Heading into 2015 I have another “what-if” scenario haunting my mind and it won’t go away. But I’m not sure I have the courage to do what I know is right. This could blow up in my face in a very bad way.

A year ago I put my dream on the line. I took a risk. I need to do it again because I don’t want 2015 to be the year of regrets.

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Photos courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net

Dream Without Fear

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A Personal Legend is what a person has always wanted to accomplish. When we are young, every person knows their Personal Legend because at a young age our dreams are big and we dream without fear, but instead with optimism and fervor. “But as time passes, a mysterious force begins to convince [us] that it will be impossible for [us] to realize [our] Personal Legend.”

An unexpected illness, a love we’re afraid of abandoning, fear of failure, or an envious person’s manipulation because they don’t want to witness us achieve something they could not, are all impediments that can destroy our dreams. But the worst reason for not pursuing a dream is believing we don’t deserve it.

Because we do.

I know a book that tells the story of a crystal merchant who has never done one of things the Koran obligated him, as a Muslim, to do – set forth on a pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca. It was something he’d desired since he was a small child, but when he grew up, he bought his shop and refused to leave the store in the hands of someone else. So he stayed, and every day, for many years, he watched, through his store window, pilgrims pass happily as they headed for Mecca.

When asked by a young shepherd boy, who was in pursuit of his own Personal Legend, why now the man didn’t go to Mecca, the merchant answered, “Because it’s the thought of Mecca that keeps me alive. That’s what helps me face these days that are all the same…I’m afraid that if my dream is realized, I’ll have no reason to go on living.”

Some people want to realize their dreams, while others are content with merely dreaming about their dreams. But when we ignore our Personal Legend, the omens, signs, will speak to us, and remind us of our calling, but we’ll pretend not to hear. The sounds of the omens will continue and regret will take over us. And maybe the person we love and who loves us back will feel our resentment because they will think they are the ones who kept us from achieving our Personal Legend. And then, after time, “the omens will abandon [us] because [we’ve] stopped listening to them…[we’ll] spend the rest of [our] days knowing that [we] didn’t pursue [our] Personal Legend, and now it’s too late.”

Don’t let it be too late.

I believe life is more than what my eyes can see. I believe in omens. I look for signs. I meditate. I talk to the universe, whether it be the sun, the sky, the stars, the wind, the trees, the moon, or God, and if the universe can talk back, I want to be open in understanding its language. I’m on a journey. I go it alone right now, but I know if my love ever comes, she won’t prevent me from realizing my Personal Legend because true love will ride the journey with me. I know what it is I must do. I know my Personal Legend.

“To realize one’s destiny is a person’s only real obligation.”

But only you can choose your destiny. Not even fate can do that for you.

“And when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it.” But you have to want it so bad that it exists in your every breath and then listen to the universe as it talks to you.

Follow the omens. Trust your heart. Dream without fear.

I’ve read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho three times. And I will read it many more times. It has guided me in my life when I needed it the most, and it will continue to guide me even when I think I need it the least. All the quotes above were taken from this book and all of the thoughts I express were influenced by this book, so really, nothing that I have written is truly of my own expression, but instead were completely inspired by the brilliance of Mr. Coelho.

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

“Inspire Someone. Smile.”

I went to Starbucks today. I sat in my usual comfy chair with my journal in my lap and a book set on a table to read when I am finished writing. I hear a woman’s voice tell someone their usual spot is taken. I look up and see a woman settling into a chair across from me. I ask her if she would rather sit here. A huge smile covers her face. She’s sixty-five years old, (I learn this later) but has the ‘full of life’ smile of a child and she really likes to sit near the window.

I stand up and collect my things. With the help of a cane, she walks toward me. I offer my hand. She takes it, kisses it, and presses it against her face. I smile. That’s not why I extended my hand. I meant to help her, but I don’t mind. It’s not awkward. She’s sweet and thanks me many times for giving up my seat. I tell her I’m happy to do it. Her husband arrives with their drinks and they sit together, side-by-side, on the cozy chairs near the window.

We talk a little. She tells me her age and the reason for the cane is because she has Multiple Sclerosis, a condition she developed when she was twenty-two. She tells me she worked with children with Autism and she is recently retired. Because I know MS is a progressive disease, I tell her how wonderful it is that she was able to work for so long doing what she loves. Again, she smiles that awesome smile.

She talks about her husband and casts a loving look his way. “He’s been taking care of me our whole marriage. We’ve been married almost forty years.” I imagine she takes care of him in ways she doesn’t even realize because being with her for the short time that I was made me feel more alive – more appreciative of life – than I’ve ever been.

I listen to this woman talk and occasional symptoms of her disease show, but she works through them. “I’m a fighter,” she tells me.

“Yes, you are.”

She smiles and waves at people. When a young mother with a small child orders the exact beverage she has, she raises her drink, and says, “Me too!”

I go to my new seat and open my journal. I try to concentrate on what I was there to write, but I can’t stop watching the couple I just met. Their legs stretched out on an ottoman, as they relax into their chairs, talking and laughing, completely enthralled with each other.

After nearly forty years of marriage, not only does this husband and wife still love one another, but they really like each other, too. Even when they’re saying nothing, I can feel contentment in their silence. It’s a touching moment because sometimes a partner’s illness can strain a relationship, but poor health hasn’t dampened this couple’s bond – -perhaps it has enriched it.

I watch them closely and know they are oblivious of the woman sitting across the room writing about them. And that she is inspired. They inspired someone – me — just by being themselves and I really needed that today.

I see them preparing to leave and I toss my journal to the side. I’m sure the woman will come to me, so I get ready to stand up. I ponder if a simple ‘good-bye’ will do or if I should extend my hand. It’s an uncomfortable predicament because so many people are anti-contact, but the woman puts my concern immediately at ease when she approaches me with her arms wide open. And that smile…Oh that smile.

She hugs me as though she’s known me for a long time. It’s not a quick embrace. She lingers close to my neck, long enough to tell me I smell good.  She kisses my hand again.

I ask her name. It’s Betsy. She says she comes here a lot. I tell her I hope to see her again. And I mean that.

We don’t need to climb a mountain to inspire – – just look adversity in the face and smile. Someone will be inspired.

 

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

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Movies and Memories

As a writer, the last thing I want to hear in response to recommending a very good book to someone is, “That’s okay. I’ll just wait for the movie to come out.” …. “But there is no movie for this book.” …. “Then it must not be a very good book.”  Sigh.

Writers don’t compete with other writers. We compete with every means of entertainment that take people away from reading. Could this include the movie industry? Possibly. But maybe for every 100 people who instead of reading a book, choose to wait a long time for the book to get to the big screen, a dozen or two dozen of them will be so swept away by the brilliance of the movie that they will just HAVE to read the book, while crossing their fingers that the book will do the movie justice.

Hey, if it takes a movie to get a person to pick up a book – I’m all for it, because I love movies. Ever since I was a little girl it was my escape. I loved books, too, and had gotten lost in so many as a child (still do), but I sure loved to watch movies. And could watch them all day. Everyday. And that hasn’t changed.

I have a stack of old tickets stubs I had saved. The oldest one dates Jan-3-1998. I was 21 at the time. The movie was Good Will Hunting. The adult price was $7.50 – today’s matinee. I saw it with my best friend.

I don’t recall what made me start saving movie ticket stubs. Maybe I’m just nostalgic because I do have a fondness for the past and lamenting how the time has passed. But I no longer save my stubs. The latest ticket I have is from 06-09-2007. The movie was Shrek. I saw it with my ex.

Now that I have stopped collecting these tickets, it seems silly to save the ones I already have, but throwing them away doesn’t feel right. I’ve held onto them this long – how can I throw them out now?

As I look over all the stubs from fifteen years ago, I can remember the exact person I saw each movie with.  Maybe this doesn’t seem like an extraordinary feat, but if you knew my horrible memory, you’d be amazed. My girlfriends have an edge over me because they can convince me I’ve said or done things I didn’t do simply because I won’t remember not having said or done them. It really isn’t fair.

I wish I could remember the multiplication table, or our State Capitols, or my niece’s and nephew’s birthdays the way I remember the people who sat beside me in a darkened theater as I shoveled buttery popcorn into my mouth.

In eighth grade, I saw the movie Madhouse with my boyfriend and another couple. Date night! He was eating Twizzlers and was so anxious to kiss me that he couldn’t even wait until he had swallowed all of his delicious candy because parts of the chewed, left-over pieces ended up in my mouth. It was the grossest, wettest and sloppiest kiss I’ve ever experienced. It was twenty-five years ago but I still remember the sweet taste of his candy on the back of my tongue and the feel of drool running down my chin.

I’m pretty sure that was the moment I became a lesbian. Thanks Ryan! It’s a wonder I even kissed another boy after that. I remember my feeling of relief when he left to go to the bathroom and I was able to towel off my face.

I’m not the lesbian who likes to rag on guys. I have experienced some decent kisses from those of the opposite sex, but nothing summed it up the way my best friend described a kiss when we hooked up with some fellows while visiting a college friend. “He kissed the way Mel Gibson looks.” Mind you, this was 1995 and Mel was lookin’ real good, but my kisses with boys never left me feeling like that. My kisses with girls…well that’s a story for another blog….maybe. 🙂

This blog isn’t about kisses. It’s about movies. Or rather, what attaches us to movies.

I remember going to see Silence of the Lambs with my mother, who is the loudest person you can ever watch a movie with. I didn’t know that at the time, but  she jumps at EVERYTHING. Even the parts where you know the bad guy is going to pop out, she’ll scream as if there was absolutely no build-up and she never saw it  coming. She scared me more than Hannibal Lecter did.

I took my young nephew to see Finding Nemo. He was so excited running down the hall to the theater that he wiped out, face first, onto the floor. Arms and legs outstretched. He was laid-out flat.  I laughed. I laughed hard. (I’m laughing right now as I write this). And he was mad at me. He slowly got up and wouldn’t look at me as I walked, and he limped, to our seats.

In the middle of the movie, I replayed his tumble in my mind – slow motion –  and I busted out in laughter again. My astute little nephew turned to me in the dark theater and whispered, “I know why you’re laughing.” Yes, he knew, and that only made me laugh harder.

Memories.

Anything can be memorable – even the worst movie ever made- if it’s connected to a memory that’s unforgettable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting Back

I think I was a better person when I was younger. I was less judgmental and more accepting. My mind was open and clearer. I welcomed new adventures without expectation because whatever happened I’d believed was meant to happen. I just went with it. I was less moody, less irritable. I was optimistic. I took each day as they came as though time would never desert me.

Now, I make presumptions I never used to and turn away from situations I don’t know, don’t understand. My mind is foggy, cloudy, hazy… every last inch of it. Optimism has turned to pessimism and a once open mind, now over-run by an over-analysis of everything. I look at the clock as if time were a girlfriend, packing her last suitcase, ready to say goodbye.

If this is life catching up to me, then I need to run faster because I’m only 38 years old and I want to live to be 100 without turning into Ouiser from Steel Magnolias. 

I meditate. I do yoga. This helps to bring me closer to myself. Everything around me slows down, almost disappears, and it’s only me. Me. Me. Me. And that’s not the way I live. I live for others, not for myself. Meditation and yoga has changed that and forced me to concentrate only on myself. This is hard, especially when you find out things about yourself you’d rather not know.

Ignorance is bliss for many, but I don’t want to be ignorant. I want to figure out how I’ve changed and why. And when I find the reasons I want to smash the blippity blip out of it so it never resurfaces again. Life took me away from me for a little while and I got lost.

Now, I need to find a way to bring a little of my younger self back to me because it’s been a long time and I kinda miss me.