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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Spirit of the Season

Lately, I have been doing a lot of thinking about what I wanted to say for my Karma Yoga class on Christmas day. I was not raised as a Christian but it seems to me, there is something to be remembered when we acknowledge Christmas. When I think of Christ, I think of love, not all the warped things done in his name or of the giant commercial holiday we so often associate with Christmas.

At the heart of Christ's teaching is the message that all beings are worthy in God's eyes. The humbleness of ones origins, ones profession and ones wealth having nothing to do with ones value in the universe. What really matters is what we make of our time on this earth and how we treat our fellow man. There is more to be gained in giving than in receiving. Christ said, "It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven," so why not give freely of what we have to offer? That is Karma Yoga at its core.

The story of Christ whether it be myth, legend or fact teaches us to love and value our fellow man. It teaches us to look beyond the outward packaging at the light shining from those around us. The word Namaste is loosely associated with the phrase, "The light within me acknowledges the light in you." I believe that this was part of Christ's message as well: look beyond the exterior to find the beauty in others. When I think of Christmas in this light, it brings a smile to my face and a longing to my heart to give something to others and to bring them some of the comfort and joy that giving and teaching brings to me.

On this day which is at its core is about love, think of someone in your life or in the world who is struggling. Fill your mind's eye and heart with this person and send them some love.

Today I am grateful for all the beautiful people I have had the opportunity to know and care for.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

This moment is good

It's so easy to forget the beauty of our present with worries about the future. I am guilty as charged but I'm sitting here right now and thinking, "This moment is good."

Sometimes we seem to live in order to get from one event to the next but sometimes, the best of it all is right here in front of us if we pause to look at it.

I got off work Friday and found I was in a horrible mood, thinking about the work I still had to do during vacation. Also, I was fixated on the horrors at work I will go back to in January but the truth of the matter is, I don't even know what tomorrow may bring so I ought to enjoy this instant.

I teach and practice yoga almost daily but I still have to constantly remember this. All that truly matters in the end is seizing the opportunities in front of us and making the most of them. Our past is of little relevance and our future is uncertain so all that really matters right now is now!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

At last...

My winter vacation has begun, none too soon. I have been feeling achy and rather sick for the past 3 or 4 days and I am so glad to have a break. I think with a little rest I will soon back to my crazy, vivacious, blog writing persona (LOL).

I am staying home for the break but my brother is visiting and I have some fun family plans for the holidays so I'm sure to be entertained. I'm gearing up to teach a "karma yoga class" for Christmas. This class will be donation-based and the proceeds will go to Urban Peak, a center for homeless teens. I'm collecting cash and non-perishable food for the kids. There is no way I would rather spend my Christmas. I think there are already a half-dozen people signed up and I have raised at least sixty dollars from people who can't attend. I think in the end, I will be able to collect a sizeable donation. This is what Christmas is really about for me. I feel so honored to get to offer such a special class. I can hardly wait. I still want to write something new and to decide on some music but otherwise, I think I am ready.

Overall, this should be a mellow break interspersed with a lot of yoga. I have been teaching every day for almost two weeks straight now and Monday will actually be my first day off. This is probably good because the body does need a break now and then but knowing me, I'll go take a class anyway (gotta love that yoga).

Unfortunately, I had to bring some work home over break. Yesterday, this had me in an awful mood but now I am taking it in stride.

I also need to finish and edit the writing pieces for my graduate school application and get them out in early January. Hopefully it will all come together...

January promises to be very busy too. On top of my regular schedule with work and teaching yoga, I will offer a yoga workshop for little kids. It is called "Little Animals" and it should be a lot of fun. I am also presenting at a "Diversity Conference" at the end of January where I will be teaching yoga for teens. This seems like a great opportunity to network, get my name out and to meet some cool young people who will help keep me inspired about teaching (I hope).

Thankfully, all this is around the corner and I have plenty of time now to rest and recharge myself for all this activity. It's good that teachers get breaks frequently.

Today I am grateful for vacation and time with family.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

If I didn't work...

I have said it before and I am sure I will again, work cramps my style. Don't get me wrong... I don't mind working hard, I just like working hard at things that call to my soul. Probably, I could teach five yoga classes a day. I could write or paint for hours without complaint. Actually, I could even teach all day long every day like I do currently if my workplace felt like a better place to be. When the year started, I loved it for a short while but then things started to get really bad... Going to work sucks all the life and energy out of me. I actually used to like bringing work home. Now I dread it. Right now I am blogging to avoid the work I still need to do tonight (LOL). Anyway, I do long for more free time.

My biggest problem seems to be lack of energy. My schedule is busy but not like it was when I went to college and grad school. I just don't have the energy I used to. People will tell you that this comes with age. I imagine it does but I suspect that my lack of stamina is more due to MS. That's why I often wish for work that demands less of my full energy. Working the way I do now, there's nothing left. When I get home, I literally pass out if I can. It's so hard to even get back up to eat dinner. I am back in bed between 7:00 and 8:00 pm. I guess the good news is that I have made it this far working full-time so I still have my house :) The bad news is that I find little energy left for the things I want to do.

My birthday was yesterday and by 5:30 pm I was exhausted and ready for bed. I didn't really even do many things. I was in bed by 8:00 pm on a Saturday night and I slept until 7:30 am. Then I got up, ran a few errands, practiced and taught aerial yoga, went to the grocery store, ran a few other errands and came home. By 3:00 pm, I was back in bed for another two hours and now I am only up to work, eat and go back to bed. I did not write or paint all weekend and I am bummed...

I keep thinking that tomorrow maybe I will do some stuff after work but every time, I find myself so tired that I end up sleeping instead. I need more spoons. I am dreaming of the day I can cut my hours at work. I really hope my house sells soon so I can make this a reality. I think if I worked 3/4 time instead of full time at school that I would feel much better.

I am not having a pity party here but I am imagining the possibility of a life where I could prioritize being an artist over paying the bills. Don't we all--

Today I am grateful to have a full-time job, two part time jobs and several hobbies when many people are trying to just find a job at all. I do count my blessings...

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Reality is what you make it...

I went to a dharma talk last Thursday with yoga guru Amrit Desai. I was intrigued because he is one of the living legends of the yoga world and I was curious to see him in person.

While he made several good points, I thought his best one was regarding reality. He basically said that we create our reality, therefore our reactions to situations and people are really just our own ego-responses created by our personal perceptions. This is not a new or novel idea but being reminded of this point of view was good for me. I was again reminded that I really create most of my own suffering. Of course knowing this is the case and doing something about it, are different things entirely (LOL).

Work is really cramping my style. Or is it? I guess the answer must just lie in my reality. I keep thinking, "My boss hates me." Or does he? I keep wondering, "How much longer can I do this? Can I afford to quit anytime in the next eon?" Then I close my eyes, breathe and think, "I am not my job. This is only part of my life." Sometimes after a dark night of the soul, so to speak, I feel great, sometimes almost stupidly happy... I use my yoga and meditation to bring me back from the dark places, the negativity, the unproductive thoughts. I have adopted my grandmother (and Scarlett O'Hara's) attitude, "Why think about it today? I'll think about it tomorrow. Tomorrow is another day." I am hoping this keeps working because I have yet to adjust my reality to believe that my boss does not hate me or that my job is the most negative force in my existence.

Anyway... I may spend 40 or so hours a week at work and another 3 or 4 commuting but I am determined not to let it ruin my life. I am determined to think about it as little as possible when I am not there. I try to stay present but it is my looming vacation that helps me keep my sanity.

How does any of this relate to "Living! with MS?" Well maybe it does and maybe it doesn't but I imagine that our mind creates many of the conditions for our illness. While we cannot prevent all things with an unpredicatble disease like MS, we can control our reactions and our "realities." My reality can be, "I have MS and that limits what I can do" or it can be, "I have MS, so what?" Maybe I will slow down, rest more, be more mindful, think through the things I committ to doing but otherwise, nothing changes. My reality can be, "I have a migraine, might as well cancel all my plans," or it can be, "I have a migraine, I need to chill, and then also consider food or a nap depending on the situation." So I can block off my whole night to be laid up in pain or I can work with the pain and see if I can help it pass by relaxing and taking care of myself for a few hours. We cannot fully control our MS but we can control our realities as we cope with it.

Today I am grateful for the chance to shape my own reality even when it is a challenge.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

MS and "The Art of Passing Time"

Over ten years ago, I embarked on writing a series of poetry called "The Art of Passing Time" with my girlfiend at the time. We dreamed of creating an artsy, black and white film that conveyed our philosophy and ideas about relationships. She was the "idea man" and I was the writer. Over time, the project morphed into a poetry series and long after we parted ways, I kept writing the poems.

In a nutshell the art of passing time was as follows:
We are in a universe adrift,
Always seeking connections--
The only constant is change,
But we long to pause time,
Pause time, just breathe.
It is possible to connect with another human being
Without artifice or pretense.
Time can be borrowed and shared.
All that matters is the second we are in--
We take the instants we share and treasure them,
We do not try to possess the other,
The memories linger long after we part...

While these ramblings form the basis for the art of passing time, my vision of time has morphed as I have grown older and experienced more things. In yoga, I always ask my students to ground themselves in the present, to enjoy the moment. This is a personal journey. It's not about connecting, it's about enjoying this space in time, whatever it holds.

I think MS has fundamentally changed my view of time. Before I was sick, I never really recognized my own mortality. It seemed that I had forever to arrive at some phantom destination (usually an ego-driven, concrete goal). I would achieve my goal and then feel deflated. I was hounded by time, always trying to crowd more tasks into the day. I rarely stopped to breathe and I was really stressed out about time. In fact, I was obsessed. I would have given almost anything to freeze time...

Although haunted by time, I would never shrug off responsibilities to make more time for the things my heart yearned to do. MS irrevocably altered me. I almost died in the beginning... When this really hit me, everything became different. I found myself greeting the sun every day. I was teary-eyed in my gratitude to still be alive. I realized, and still do, that every additional day I live is a gift. This realization changed my whole attitude about time. I slowed way down. I took on fewer things. I took more time for myself. It took a long time to adjust but now I think I am better for it. Now, "The Art of Passing Time" has new significance for me.

I am reading a book called It is amazing. I almost feel like the author took all the ideas that have entered my head since my diagnosis and spilled them out onto paper. I have a renewed determination to finally finish and publish my poetry collection. I can feel my attitude towards time shifting. This comfort with time is bringing me new peace and I find my heart is full of joy.

Today I am grateful for my place in time.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

self-censorship and the art of blogging

I often wrestle with the question of how much I should censor my topics and observations on this blog. I never censor what I write on my other blogs but this one feeds to facebook and sometimes I am not sure how much of my life should be shared with all my fb "friends." Right now I am completing a divorce and this makes it tricky. I have this feeling that there are certain details of my divorce and my life now that it is not time to share. Sometimes this is hard because I have always been brutally honest on this blog but I think that showing some sensitivity in my content right now is the best course of action.

There are some things I can safely say here. Things are going well for me. I am sad that things did not turn out differently but I think they came out for the best ultimately. I know that I am still being judged by many former "friends" who never got my side of the story and who may or may not know the truth but that is ok. At the moment, my own peace of mind seems most important. I am finding that with greater peace and more time for myself, I am feeling better overall. My migraines are almost gone and those I do have, I know how to work with almost entirely without meds. I am still tired but now it is ok to go to bed when I want to.

Slowly, I am figuring out what I really want to do with my life. I am exploring new things and new ideas. I am feeling very creative. It has been fun to just go where my passions pull me and to not worry about results or perfection. I think this process is actually making me more creatively successful. I find myself dreaming of new goals. I have an enormous "bucket list" now. I also know I want to travel and explore new things.

MS does not dictate my plans. Marriage does not dictate my plans. My "job" does not dictate my plans. The only thing dictating my agenda now is my own need and desire and it feels great!

Today I am grateful for my renewed comfort in this skin.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Update 12/01/09

Long time no write... I just got back from vacation yesterday and by the time I got home my spoons were already used up by travel. I ate and then fell asleep for three hours. Then I got up, did a few things and was back in bed by 8pm. I slept until 5:45am this morning. Now I feel rested and rejuvenated by vacation and all that sleep. Work is somehow a little less trying...

The next vacation is already in sight and I am starting to make plans. The next few weeks I plan to finish my writing and application for graduate school. I also am going to teach some extra yoga classes to make some money for the holidays etc... I think I can keep my stress minimal until the next big break.

My vacation was fabulous. I slept almost all day Saturday. The whole trip was one long culinary extravaganza. I even went to "all you can eat sushi" on Black Friday for the excellent price of $15.00. It must have been a special deal:) I got to spend some nice time with my mom and with some friends. Overall, it was a great vacation.

Today I am thankful for this feeling of rejuvenation.