Unforgivable

Dear Yoga Journal,

Please don’t send me an email with the subject line “Eating Wisely” while I’m opening a thoughtful gift of the most glorious handmade caramels Seattle has to offer. Such a message is rude and it kills my gorging buzz.

I may unsubscribe just for your insolence.

Sincerely,
Naptime Eating

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Enough

I started running again a couple of weeks ago. I let go of the Shoulds and the Rules I’d constructed around my life and let myself have 20 minutes, three nights a week. Because I need exercise to feel good and I have been denying myself that because there are other, more important things to do. Because I need oxygen to feel good, but I have denied myself that, too, because there are other, more important things to do. I know I need to follow the rhythms of my body, after a day of following the rhythms (often conflicting) of two little people, to feel good, but I don’t let myself because there are things—an endless list of things—to do. I was being self destructive and eating to relax because I can eat while I do at least half of the other things I need to do.

Need. To do.

So I started running. And the first night I went, I relaxed and let go and tried to feel the night and the lights and the air and the PAIN of running after almost a year wash over me. My body has not been my own since I grew Peanut six years ago. And I took one step in getting it back.

At the midpoint of my teeny tiny run I saw a woman laughing near the window of her living room, the walls of which were decorated with exotic percussion instruments. She had her arms over her head, and she was dancing and playing some bell/drum thing. [Let’s pretend I was going so fast I couldn’t quite place the instrument; more likely I was trying to be in the moment and not stare at the neighbors.] And I thought, “That’s what I want in my life.” She looked happy. And comfortable in her body. And she was having fun with music in her home in a cozy neighborhood that I’ve loved for years.

As I ran by she saw me. And stared. Really saw me and stopped to think about it. It was probably only four seconds, but in my head it was forty. And she was thinking, according to my self-doubting Critic brain, “What is that woman doing? Is she really out running and ruining your knees on asphalt, alone, when there is life to be lived? Wow. I can’t imagine.” In my brain she is much more gentle with me than I am, because she probably should have thought “pathetic,” “delusional,” and “clearly unbalanced.”

I kept running, but seeing how this woman spent her 20 minutes this evening had me thinking about how my rejection of my rules, of my shoulds, needed to go even further. I needed to be drumming and dancing and singing. I needed to be happy. I needed to reorganize my priorities and balance my life and don only what’s most important…well, it simply wasn’t enough to work all day, without a break, then run and then write or edit and then clean and then prepare and then start all over again. It was just not enough. I am not Enough. And she’s the one who told me that with her look.

[jump forward one week]

Today after school Peanut and Butter and I went to a playground with two other families. We liked each other, we wanted to see if our kids could be friends, and we wanted some adult company while our kids burned through their after-school energy. So we talked as I chased Butterbean through a creek and across rocks and up hills and after dogs. And when I mentioned where we lived, one of the other moms told me where she lived. I told her that her house was on my new running route.

She looked at me and said, “I knew that was you I saw running. I was in my living room acting like an idiot and I recognized you.”

And there it was. She stared because she knew me. And from that recognition I read judgement and pity and superiority. I told her I thought she was looking because I was pathetic. And now that she knew I had seen her, she quickly tried to couch her reckless abandon as silliness and lunacy when all I had seen was joy and humanity.

The rules and the shoulds and the inferiority and the judgement are there, waiting to sabotage. Waiting to say it’s not enough, whatever it is.

Maybe, every once in a while, we can remember whose rules they are. Because if we’re not Enough we can change, and when we are Enough, we need to see it.

Maybe we could see into our own living spaces with the eyes of a gentle, tired, flawed human and see who we really are.

I’m pretty sure it’s Enough.

***

(This post is being simulcast over at Dump Your Frump, where they believe whatever you do is more than enough.)

There’s a new pranayama in town

Back in the era where I had hours to myself to set my own schedule and wrap my writing around a sense of centered intelligence, I found that yoga helped enormously. My practice helped my body, my balance, my breath, my thinking, my writing.

But I haven’t put any time into my practice since Peanut was born, and I’m feeling the loss. My posture, my flexibility, and my breath are all distorted. But mostly, my sense of balance is off. Mentally and emotionally, I’m a mess.

My sense of what I need on any given day to be a patient, present, decent human being is totally off. So I was thinking this morning when I gave myself a timeout (I’ve decided I need timeouts more than Peanut does, because he’s just exploring and testing boundaries and doing his job by driving me to drink, and it’s MY job to find the patience, creativity, and flexibility I need to parent him respectfully. The only way I’ve found to regain my centered willingness to teach and play in the heat of the moment is to breathe and think. And being in the circle of a screaming toddler maelstrom is not a great place to breathe or think. Plus, I love just leaving the room when he’s pushing my buttons. That technique is totally Spouse’s m.o. for conflict with me, and I loathe being on the receiving end of someone who has to leave the room to avoid saying something nasty. But it’s been successful so far to leave a frustrating small person to figure out what he really wants while I go breathe. He seems to find clarity around his choices much more quickly when I’m in the other room refusing to play his reindeer games.)

Anyway, I was thinking, as I forced long, deep inhales to calm myself, that maybe I need to bring pranayama (yoga breath) back into my life. Even if I don’t find time for the full practice, complete breath should help, no?

One breath answered my question as it brought tension to my shoulders, neck and face: Nope. There is a time and place for warming, meditative breath. While you’re pissed off is not one of these times.

As humans, we need a lot of oxygen. As yoga practicioners, we need a lot of oxygen, too, but we try to still the breath and make it rhythmic, sustained, and transformative. And pranayama focuses on steady breathing that creates warmth, sound, and an internal metronome. All of those require friction in the airways, a slight constriction that serves as a gatekeeper for the large volume of air flowing into a yoga-engaged body that needs the breath to last a long, centering time. But even shitali pranayama, the cooling breath, takes a lot more constriction that I need when I’m counting to ten and trying to regain my balance.

Trying to calm anger requires a lack of constriction. Anger needs big, open gateways for air to flow through, because it’s precisely the cooling flood of air that squelches the fire of rage. Angry people need to breathe like runners–mouth open, chest swelling, maximal oxygen without interruption.

So that got me thinking that maybe I could begin to practice again, if only a few moments at a time, if I tried to do a hybrid yoga, changing breath from a single rhythm to a double. Maybe I could engage fully in a vinyasa with a deep, open runner’s breath if there was a whole cycle for each asana. Instead of moving through the poses as each half of the breath cycle completes, I could inhale freely, then move on the exhale. Inhale, exhale, move. Inhale, exhale, move.

I tried it (later, when he slept), and it worked. The same sense of rhythm, even if it was less meditative, returned to my newly rejuvenated practice. I was thoughtful about my movement, I was present in each asana. I wasn’t forcing a kind of breath I just can’t sustain right now. And finding my own kind of balance, even if it goes against what I’ve been taught, makes sense right now. Because I’m not the person I was, I’m not living in the body I once had, and I’m not trying to calm and focus the mind I once trained. I’m playing a whole new ballgame now. And I might as well write the rules to fit my search for a new self, body, and mind.