Thursday, July 27, 2017

Everything changes, nothing will ever be the same, but you will be ok.

I'm deep in my feelings today.  I've been thinking about life in general, things that various friends are going through, and my own life over the past year, with all of its fits and starts.  So many of us are struggling in this "season of change" that seems to be afoot.  Here's just one personal example:  A little over a year ago, a long-time good friend of mine passed away unexpectedly.  Today would have been her birthday.  I was already managing some chaos that had shown up in my life (also unexpectedly because chaos is a rude bastard who won't call ahead), and the passing of my friend was a blow that still makes me hold my chest to keep my heart from falling out of it.  To say that I miss her, and I think about her often is an understatement.

That said - we are alive, you and I.  I know that I'm alive because I can see all of the junk that needs to be cleaned up in my living room right now, and I know that you're alive because you're reading this.  So let's get to it:

Living = Changing.

That's it. 

Anything that is alive is in a constant state of change.  Of shifts, degeneration, lying fallow, and rebirth.  There's absolutely nothing that we can do to stop change.

We know this, and still we hold on to notions, people, places, titles... things that may have served us well once, but not any longer.  We will white-knuckle the hell out of something or someone because we "love" this "thing" and if we let it go, we might be worse off.  Fear keeps us holding on, and when that happens, it owns us until we open our hands.  Personally, I'm more afraid of being paralyzed by fear than I am of anything else.  Except maybe bugs.

I'm not suggesting that you blow up your life, UNLESS you hate the current state of affairs in your life, in which case you should take measures to blow it up immediately.  For the rest of us?  Most of us?  We don't HAVE to blow it up because life will do it for us.  What once existed in abundance will ebb.  Things that we DON'T want, will flow for a while.  Sometimes we feel like we are going to die (or wish that we would), but we live.  We see constant change all around us in nature, and, as much as we humans try to defy nature, we are very much a part of "nature."

So when ebb zigs when we want it to zag, and when flow does the opposite, how do we keep ourselves upright?

Sometimes we don't.  Sometimes we just need lie our asses horizontal for a while and be pitiful.  Wallow as if your life depends on it, because it might.  If the "wallow" phase goes on for too long and you can't get out of it on your own, reach out for help in the form of a trusted loved one, or a professional.  Read some books.  Find a supportive, safe space on the internet.  You don't have to go it all alone.

Once the shock and acute pain wears off, take note of what appears to be your "new normal."  Don't force yourself into old patterns - they're like old clothes that don't fit anymore.  Get butt-naked and see what fits you now.  I feel like I've been naked for about a year, and am still only partially clothed again. It takes the time it takes, and soon after you get dressed, you'll find yourself needing to get naked again anyway because, "changes."

Trust your gut - it knows the way.  This is where so many of us get stuck.  We try to be rational about our life choices, when we really are feeling beings.  When we make decisions solely from our heads, it usually makes every other part of ourselves unhappy.  This is how we end up miserable in high-paying jobs that *should* make us happy.  Or in relationships with people who, according to the checklist, *should* be a good catch.  Don't *should* on yourself.  Allow your gut (or "intuition") to gently guide you, then use your head to figure out HOW to do what your gut is telling you.

We really do have everything that we need in order to thrive, including access to people who can help us along the way, we just have to be willing to get naked and stay that way until our new wardrobe shows up.

--Nicole

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Just did Bikram Yoga for the first time...

I had done hot yoga before on a regular basis.  This was seven or eight years ago when I was deepening my yoga practice, before complications from foot surgeries caused hip & back problems that left me unable to balance.

I've been doing restorative (or "yin") yoga periodically since then, trying to rehab myself.  Restorative yoga, my acupuncturist, and my chiropractors have gotten me straightened out to the point where I'm game to try hot yoga again, and there's a new-ish, competitively-priced, Bikram studio not far from me, so... Bikram it is.  Can't be too different from hot yoga, right?

I. Was. NOT. Ready.

When I checked in at the front desk, the instructor (let's call him Kevin) asked me how many Bikram classes I had taken before.  I told him I had never done Bikram, but I had done hot yoga.  He chuckled and said "Well... get ready" in a tone that sounded ominous to me, under the circumstances.  I went to the locker room to stow my backpack, then went into the studio where class was to be held.

It was hot as hell in there, y'all.  I literally said "Well, gatdam!" out loud, then cringed b/c there was a woman lying on her mat in the room.  I quickly rolled out my mat right next to the door (coolest spot in the room), and went back out into the lobby.

I don't sweat readily, so if I'm sweating I'm either working REALLY hard or it's REALLY hot.  In the 60-or-so seconds that it took me to roll out my mat, put a towel on top, and place my water bottle next to it, little droplets of sweat had formed all over my body.  I sat in the lobby, marshaling all of my mental forces and preparing for the next 90 minutes.  "Should I go in and acclimate myself, or should I stay out here and soak up all of the cool air that I can?"  I did a little of both - sat out for a little longer, then plunged myself into the heat.  Strangely, it was hot and humid, but not that "I can't breathe" type of humidity (after class, I found out that oxygen is pumped into the room along with the heat).  I lay down on my towel and prayed to God to let me live through what was looking like a terrible decision.

For me, the most surprising part of the class was that there is no "flow" to Bikram - only specific poses performed in a specific order.  Kevin, bless his tiny-trunked, bendy heart, did a short spiel for me, since I was the only newbie.  In so many words, he (nicely) told me to keep up or sit on my heels, but don't be a wuss, and don't be a distraction.  I was to stay in the room and stay present unless I felt like I was going to die or pee myself.  I nodded.  Challenge accepted.

By the second of the 26 poses, I was cussing in my head, then telling myself (also in my head) that there was no cussing in yoga.  Then I'd tell both of myselves (head, still) to shut up so I could focus.  I struggled through, determined to stay in the room, even though a couple of times I felt nauseated, and a couple of other times, I felt like I was going to burst out in tears.  When I needed to stop and sit on my heels, I did so as unobtrusively as possible.  I only drank water between poses, I stayed present, I kept breathing, and I didn't die.  When Kevin told us to lie on our mats in "savasana,"  I almost cried tears of joy, but my joy was short-lived:  In every yoga class I've ever taken, savasana (literally "corpse pose") is the final pose:  you lie on your back in relief and meditate for about five minutes until class ends.

In Bikram yoga, apparently savasana just means that you lie down on your back for about 60 seconds and then do about 15 more poses on the floor with savasanas strewn in-between.  "Gawwwwd!  Whyyyyy?!"  Screamed the Head Me that had been cursing 40-ish minutes earlier.  "Just be quiet and just don't cry or puke." came the response from Me Too.  Surprisingly, I didn't do either, and my final savasana was pure moksha.  I made it through the class (obviously) - and Kevin acknowledged that little accomplishment by asking the class to applaud me for staying in the room.  One of my classmates congratulated me personally for the same thing.  "Cursing Me," ever the smart-ass, asked "If all I had to do was stay in the room why didn't I just lie on my mat the whole time?"  "Moksha Me" told Cursing Me not to ruin her high.

I left feeling cleansed and transcendent... and all of my clothing was sopping wet - it was disgusting.  I put a towel on the seat of my car to keep it from getting sweaty, and sat for 5 minutes before driving home.  Not because of the heat or any pain, but because I was feeling so chill I didn't have it in me to drive as defensively as is required by L.A. traffic.  I recovered, and I went home.

Had you asked me yesterday if I would go back, my answer would have been an honest "I don't know."  It was hella difficult, y'all.  And I did it to myself.  On purpose.  Today, however, I can tell that I stretched muscles that desperately needed it, and I'm feeling calmer than I have since I stopped renewing my Xanax prescription.  So, yeah... I'll be back, again, and again, and again until maybe one day I don't feel like I'm going to throw up or cry and the Dueling Head Mes don't fight as often.  'Til the day when I have the energy left at the end of class to cheerfully applaud the newbie by the door who looks like s/he might throw up, cry, or run away, but stays present instead.


--Nicole