Yoga Makes You Well

May you be filled with loving kindness, may you be well,

may you be peaceful and at ease, may you be happy.

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New Year's Resolutions

Posted on July 30, 2014 at 12:37 AM Comments comments (45)
I have been told I am a very practical person.  It is true.  I usually ask myself if something could work and how.  This is one reason I love yoga.  It is so practical.  Just  a study of how the body moves and how to make it move more easily.  That has practical applications for everything from sports to breathing. 

Since I am so practical, I like making things solid.  I have been in the habit of making New Year's Resolutions each year for a few years and putting them up on the wall to see them and read them and keep them in my mind.  This helps because when I see them, then I think of them when I get opportunities.  If my resolution is to learn a computer program and then I see a training for that program offered on a big discount, well, then I buy that training. 

Last year I decided to do a little more formal study of trees to learn about them and be more ecologically literate. I also wanted to meet people who volunteer. Trees Atlanta is a community program here in the city that plants lots of trees all over the place to try to keep the air quality breathable and the erosion at a minimum.  They offered a program to study trees for a couple of months on Saturdays and then do some volunteer hours and become a "Certified Tree Keeper" and get my Tree Keeper's hat.

I took the classes.  Then I asked how to volunteer "in a leadership role", as they specified.  They did not have a clear way to do that.  Which meant that the leadership service hours were never going to be gotten and that I would not be able to complete my training (I hear Yoda telling Luke, "You must complete your training!").  I felt bereft.  I had no idea how to become a certified tree keeper. 

Which meant that I would not get my hat. I don't ever wear hats. It is funny how much I wanted that hat.  I had no idea how to get it.  No clear path.  If I even could figure out how to volunteer in a leadership role (some vague leadership role), I work most times they plant with volunteers. 

I found myself at a loss.

So it was time to make New Year's Resolutions and I decided that I would make getting my Tree Keeper's hat one of the resolutions on my list. 

I typed up two pages of these resolutions.  Very practical things.  Cook for myself at least once a week.  Attend yoga class at least twice a week.  Get my Tree Keeper's hat.

After four months, I still had no idea how to get my Tree Keeper's hat. I would read that resolution and think, "but how?"

But then, in the fifth month of the year, I got an email.  Trees Atlanta had a project they needed lots of data collectors to do.  It would be more training hours and it would be lots of field work.  And it would bring me my Tree Keeper's hat. 

I got my hat today.  I am a certified tree keeper.  Check.

Mission Statements

Posted on July 23, 2014 at 10:55 PM Comments comments (25)
One thing I love about yoga and meditation is how wonderful their traditions are around learning to be intentional in life.  I have learned so much in these past four and a half years since I started making yoga and meditation big parts of my life.

I think it is good to have a mission statement.  It makes the journey easier to navigate.  It is so easy to lose our way on earth.  We all make missteps.  We all take wrong turns.  But when there is a mission statement, it is easy to refer to it and ask, "Is this furthering my mission?" 

My mission as a yogi is to become balanced.  I believe in finding the middle path.  I am a person who can enjoy extremes.  I like adventure and excitement.  But a life of thrill seeking leads to over worked adrenal glands and an agitated mind.  Adrenals make cortisol which makes belly fat (not to mention disease).  And of course, thrill seeking leads to big highs and big lows that are both dangerous.

The middle path, on the other hand, is not very exciting.  It is often humdrum.  Plodding.  Unlikely to get anyone too excited.  "Living the dream", as I like to say, is all about going to work, doing yoga, studying yoga, volunteering, getting to know my family and friends, learning about trees, saving for retirement, taking good care of my teeth, improving my relationships and building my compassion.  

This is something I am discovering for myself at a late date in my life: intentional living is sexy.  What I once thought was "cool" and what I really think is cool now are such different things.  Slow and steady wins the race.

Starting a Peace

Posted on May 21, 2013 at 10:54 AM Comments comments (14)
Alright.  I guess I may as well get comfortable with the fact that I am turning into an activist.  Meditation does have this one side effect that could be considered negative.  It brings the world into clearer focus and it helps you see with compassion all the people around you and what they experience.  In some ways, being numbed out is easier.  There was some famous somebody or other who said that once you see you can't unsee.  That is true.  So be warned.

It has brought me into my own view, too.  The things I do, the motivations behind why I am doing them, the probable outcome, the habits.  I see myself now.  And now I ask myself, "is that something that I want to do?  If so, why?  What would happen if I did the opposite thing?  Would I like my life better?"

I have a lot of friends who are musicians.  I have always gone to see shows.  It feels pretty cool to "be on the list" and get in free, with them probably buying me a beer and me getting to be "in".  I always enjoy hearing their music and it is a blast.

But recently, I started asking myself what I really think is cool. 

What I Really Think is Cool:

I really think it's cool when people serve community.  I really think it's cool when people value their families and get to know their children.  I really think it's cool when people take care of the environment.  I really think it's cool when people take care of themselves.  Boom.

So.  With these answers in my pocket, I decided to start volunteering.  I signed up to volunteer with Trees Atlanta one Saturday morning, planting trees in an abandoned lot in a neighborhood in town.  Because the planting started early, I went to bed early Friday night.

When I woke up and got ready to go, on my way out the door, I saw a text from a musician friend of mine.  He sent it the night before, last minute, telling me he was performing at a smoky tavern and I should come down and he'd put me on the list.  He said he would buy me a beer.

As I drove over to the forest, I felt a pang in my heart, wishing I had seen the text and gone to the show.  I knew, though, that if I had gone, I would have stayed out late and not gotten up early and gone to the forest to plant and tend.  There is no doubt that I would have had fun.  I would have had a blast.  I would have had two or three beers.  I would have seen some friends and they would have invited me to their shows and it all would have been nice.  I would have come home smelling of smoke and dragged the next day.  But it would have been a wonderful show.

As I arrived at the forest, there were fifty volunteers there, unloading truck beds filled with shovels and plants and buckets filled with mulch.  Arborists and families and neighbors and people who brought their dogs.  We worked.  Hard.  Those mulch-filled buckets were heavy.  But not as heavy as the water buckets.  But with so many people there, we got done early. 

I drove home, filled with fresh air and community, with dirty hands and muddy feet.  

I read a book about meditation in which the author said something like, "meditation gives you a pause between something happening and your reaction to it.  And in that pause, you choose this friendship and not that one, this job and not that one, this place to live and not that one, this thought and not that one.  And in that choice, you build a better life." 

As I drove home, I thought to myself, "Amen, brother.  Right on."

Building community builds you

Posted on May 4, 2013 at 12:32 PM Comments comments (14)
I got an invitation and went last night to an underground music venue that is in an old grocery store/ dude's living room.  It is called Grocery on Home.  There were three performances, the last of which was bluegrass/ folk- awesome!  Check them out- Tumbleweed Wanderers.  You will be glad you did.

The place was full, with people B-ing their own B and more than one cheese plate at a tiny kids' table filled with adults.  The guy whose home it is passed a corned beef box and asked for a $20 donation from each person, which went directly to the artists to pay for their traveling expenses, etc.  He made zero dollars on this little venture.

When we left, there were plenty of dirty dishes for him to wash and the place was arranged like a music venue, not a living room. 

I started thinking about the things I do simply because they are meaningful to me,  I teach an English as a Second Language class to the staff and the monk at the Buddhist Center near me where I meditate.  Their English is really improving.  I spend a little money getting things for class and I make zero dollars on it.  I have no intention of stopping any time soon.  I also teach a donation for charity yoga class once a week at the local metaphysical center.  I have between zero and four students most weeks, but I have made some incredible friends.  

My cousin is a youth minister at a progressive Baptist church in town.  I volunteer with him and the neighborhood kids after school one day a week, helping with homework, troubleshooting computer problems, coaching social skills.  The kids are inner-city kids with very little structure and adult supervision.  We took them to the zoo a couple of weeks ago.  I had such a beautiful time with them.

In my twenties and the first half of my thirties, I worked constantly.  I spent almost all my time working and thinking about work.  I became successful at my job, but then my life sort of fell apart because of lack of meaning.  I found myself lost inside my success and it was meaningless to me.

Now that I approach forty, I make sure to do something meaningful and something fun every day.  I work, of course.  I like to work.  I have always liked to work.  I just give myself a chance to like something else, too.  I really look forward to my volunteer days.  I have them spread throughout the week.  In Buddhism, there is a term for doing things that are good.  It is "Bun" or "Bunya" (sounds like Boon).  It translates roughly to "merit".  The more bun you have, the more your life sort of glows and inflates and you cultivate happiness and good luck. 

In Christianity, the concept of tithing ten percent of your money is venerated.  I am at a point where I feel nervous to commit ten percent of my money, but I find it easy to commit ten percent of my time.  If a regular work week is forty hours, I tithe four hours a week to my volunteer work.  I was discussing this with a friend last night and she said, "think what kind of world we would have if everyone did that!" 

I find that I am less compelled to shop for things I ultimately do not need since I started volunteering.  Instead of going and spending lots of money on things or entertainment, I spend time planning my classes or doing something else creative.  I am more helpful generally.  I listen when people close to me ask for help.  I cannot always help them, but now I almost always try.  That makes the real difference. 

I love that this guy made his home a music venue because music is meaningful to him.  I loved being there, knowing that I was part of a living tradition of art that is not going anywhere, no matter what else happens.  Music, art, education, beauty, health- these are the things we build our world out of.  They make life worth living. 

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