Rox Does Yoga

Musings on Everything Yoga

Train Travel Woes April 25, 2014

Filed under: yoga,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 2:19 pm
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One Monday last month, I got all my stuff together to go to a yoga class downtown on my lunch break from work. I packed my mat and yoga clothes into my yoga mat bag and even remembered to bring it with me on the way out the door! Unfortunately, I didn’t remember to grab it when I got off the train – I left the bag in the overhead rack. As soon as I got to the office, I realized what I’d done. I called Lost & Found right away and gave them a report, and I stopped by the Lost & Found office in the train station twice over the next week. No luck. My beautiful handmade yoga bag, my favorite tank top, and the fairly new pants that actually fit were all gone for good.

It’s such a small thing, but the whole experience has been kind of heartbreaking in its way, and really put me off my yoga for several weeks. (For starters, obviously I didn’t make it to class at lunch that day!)  I felt too stupid and sick about the whole thing to even start investigating replacements for my lost things for a while. The pants I should be able to replace with a trip to Old Navy, luckily. The top, not so much – it was a prAna brand top, but they don’t have one like it in their current collection; I only had this top to begin with because of a great sale that made it affordable. I’ve now signed up with prAna’s discount program for registered yoga teachers so I’ll be ready to order a new top as soon as they start selling one. But the yoga mat bag! The Etsy seller whom I purchased it from no longer seems to make them, and after scrolling through options for hours, I haven’t been able to find a comparable one. For now I’m settling on a bag from Gaiam just to get me through, but I think I’ll always dream of my lost bag.

The mat itself wasn’t terrible to lose; I’d had it since 2002, sure, but it was old and worn and I’d already ordered a new mat just for fun. It would’ve been nice to have some time to break the new mat in, though, and not have to pull it into circulation right away. Now I have a brand-new mat that isn’t sticky at all and that I slide around on. I’ve looked up some tips for breaking in a new mat, and I thought I’d share them here!

I’m planning to shower with mine and give it a warm water rinse. If that doesn’t work, then I’ll try the salt scrub – it seems like a great idea. For the rest of it, I’m just trying to practice non-attachment and living in the present moment – what’s done is done. If my things are gone, then they’re gone, and I have to let them go and not cling on to my regret. Hopefully someone somewhere is enjoying the bag, and maybe the clothes were given to charity!

 

Reorganization July 2, 2013

Filed under: reflections,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 12:16 pm
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Last week, my usual posting routine got off-schedule because on Monday I received news of a division-wide reorganization at my company. Now, at my last job I weathered three reorgs (some with more successful results than others), and I saw dozens of colleagues lose their jobs. There are two key differences between those reorgs in the past and this one now. First, in the past I faced each last-minute mandatory meeting with some anticipation and excitement, hoping I might be ones of the ones to be let go; I was so unhappy in my job that the idea of losing it sounded less like a loss and more like an opportunity for a fresh start. Ultimately, I had to find my own opportunity for a fresh start instead having one handed to me with a layoff, and I found myself here, at my new company. I’ve only been here for eight months, but I love my group and enjoy my work, and I’ve been very happy, so the idea of anything changing now is actually intimidating! And, also unlike the reorgs I witnessed before, this one involves a change that directly affects me: my job title, and probably most of my responsibilities, will remain the same, but I’ll be transferring to a different group to work on developing a new line of electronic products.

Once I got past the initial shock of the news, I felt both excited and apprehensive about my new role. The VP of my group hand-picked me for the new team, which speaks well of my work and reputation, especially since I’ve been with the company for so short a time. I feel honored to be chosen for the job and trusted with some high-profile projects (even if I don’t know exactly what those projects will be yet!). And, since the market for electronic products just keeps growing, this change presents a lot of potential for career growth for me. Plus I’m genuinely interested in the practical details of how to go about developing these products! On the other hand, part of me is definitely nervous – I’ve been happy in my job here, for the first time in years! Why do we have to shake things up? Can’t everything just stay the same?

Whenever change comes, whether you expect it or not, it can be scary. Last fall when I accepted this job I was scared too, even though I knew the move was the right thing for me. From a yogic perspective, the thing to do at times like this is to stay calm: keep up with my yoga practice, focus on pranayama and deep breathing, and remind myself to stay in the present moment. I need to “reorganize” my own thoughts: it does me no good to worry, since I don’t know what the future holds. My job here has been great for me, but I can’t get so attached to it that I lose out on an opportunity to move forward. Staying calm and centered, keeping my attitude flexible, and practicing non-attachment will allow me to weather the change and be poised to make the most of it. This particular change provides a great opportunity for career growth, and like all change, it offers a chance of personal and spiritual growth as well. The change is happening whether I like it or not, so I might as well leap aboard!

 

practicing non-attachment at the car dealership May 9, 2013

Filed under: reflections,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:46 pm
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This past weekend brought me a new opportunity to practice non-attachment and letting go when my husband F and I bought a new car. We traded in our old car, which had previously been MY old car: a 2007 two-door black VW Rabbit I called “Buddy.” Trading Buddy in was definitely the right decision – it had been increasingly difficult to get YogaBaby in and out of the backseat, let alone travel any distance with her and her stuff. But it brought up a lot of memories.

I bought Buddy brand-new in summer 2006. I had just moved back home to Philly after being laid off from job in Boston and breaking up with my boyfriend of over six years. On the drive from Boston to Philly, my old car, full of my stuff, had started making funny noises, and while the car made it to PA, the issue turned out to be unfixable. I needed a car: I was living in the suburbs with my parents, I had no idea where I’d end up working, and I also had made big plans for a solo road trip. I was single, and so I bought a two-door car since I didn’t need to think of anyone but myself. (This situation resulted in some other purchases that later turned out to be unfortunate, such as a beige couch, but I digress.) After making so many changes in my life at once, the car was just the latest, and it came to represent my fresh start. Being in the car was like having my own little sanctuary when my parents’ house didn’t quite feel like my home anymore. I have great memories of the first road trip Buddy and I went on together, just a few days after I bought him: we drove to western Massachusetts for a wedding, then to Tennessee for another wedding, then to visit friends in North Carolina. It was a great trip, driving for hours with the windows down, singing along with the radio, just the two of us. Once F and I started dating long-distance, Buddy drove me to the airport many times so I could pick F up or fly to meet him somewhere for an adventure. Buddy and F got to be better friends once F moved cross-country to settle with me in Philly (F drove Buddy to work every day while I took the train). When we moved from my one-bedroom to a place large enough for both of us, Buddy drove us there; the day after our wedding, we stuck a “Just Married” sticker on Buddy and headed for the Poconos for a mini-honeymoon. Buddy’s been house-hunting, yard sale deal hunting, and to and from IKEA many times. Then in July, Buddy carried two of us to the Birth Center, and brought three of us home.

That little VW was a damn good car, and it was hard to say goodbye. But even as I personify my car and talk about Buddy like he was a real person, I know that it was just a car. What made Buddy seem like, well, a buddy was all the good times I had in the car, and all the different milestones that happened while I owned it. I don’t need to keep the car to remember my history. Buddy served me well, and it was time to move on. He’ll be a good car to some other single woman on her own, and he’ll have lots of new adventures.

So on Saturday, I let Buddy go, and we welcomed a Subaru Forester to the family. With its heated seats, sunroof, and roomy backseat and trunk, the Forester has a lot of positive qualities, and we’re getting along well so far. I can already see that I’ll have to practice non-attachment with the Forester too, but I’m looking forward to making many new memories as YogaBaby grows.

 

New Beginnings November 7, 2012

Filed under: reflections,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 2:00 pm
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Last week I started a new job.

I wasn’t happy at my old job – I’ve always been up front about that here on the yoga blog – and I’ve written about trying to apply what I’ve learned about meditation and mindfulness to my work troubles. I reminded myself to be grateful to have a job at all, especially one that paid well, where I was liked and respected. I tried to treat my job as my karma yoga duty, the work that’s mine to do at this point in my life and the work I need to do to support my family, and so I tried to do my best and practice non-attachment. My mantra became “I am here to do my work the best I can, without attachment to the work itself or its results”. On the whole, this isn’t a bad attitude to practice, but it was always hard to let go and not get caught up in frustration, and I kept hoping I could find a job that would suit me better: work I liked better, a better work-life balance. After YogaBaby arrived, sending out resumes became my little project, something I worked on while she nursed or slept in my lap. And I got some calls, and some interviews. (And believe me, you’ve never been nervous about a job interview until you’ve worried about leaking breast milk in front of your potential employer.)

A few weeks after I started back to work, this job offer came along. It wasn’t perfect (with all due respect to my new colleagues and my division director – hi, E! – who’s already found this blog). The work will be pretty similar to what I was doing before (although with some key differences that make me think I might like it more). The pay is also very similar (although the recruiter did her best to make the offer as sweet as possible). It’s a lateral move in terms of job title (although with more potential for advancement than I felt I had at my old job). The offer was actually so similar to what I was doing and earning at my old job that I had to consider it for almost a week. I compared the cost of health insurance, the time off/vacation policy, even the 401K matching program – in some respects my old company was stronger, in other respects the new company was stronger.

Ultimately, it came down to a choice between the known and the unknown, the familiar and the new. Did I want to stay where I was and maintain the status quo, good and bad? Or did I want to take a chance that I could be happier making a change, taking a risk?

I decided to take the chance, partly because I knew that if I didn’t accept the job, I’d always wonder if I should have, and partly because I feel like you can’t wait around hoping for change to come to you. There’s no point in waiting for the perfect thing to come along because nothing in this world is going to be perfect. I felt that I had to put myself out there and take action if I wanted a change to happen, and I really did need a change. I made the best decision I could, and so far, I think I made the right choice. So here’s to change, and risk, and being brave, and crossing our fingers as we jump.

 

Books: Karma-Yoga, by Swami Vivekananda: My Response December 13, 2011

I recently summarized and commented on Swami Vivekananda’s book Karma-Yoga. Although the book is based on lectures given by Vivekananda over a century ago, it feels incredibly relevant and important to me today, and I wanted to comment on what touched me so much about this book and what seemed so important about Vivekananda’s words on work and duty.

First, I identify as a Karma yogini (which is why I chose this book to read rather than Vivekananda’s books on Jnana yoga or Bhakti yoga). I feel that the ideals of karma yoga that are outlined in the Bhagavad Gita are really beautifully explicated in this book; the Gita tells us to be unattached and to work without regard for the results of our actions, but Vivekananda begins to explain how we’re supposed to manage that. He sets the case for Karma yoga as the yogic path that is most accessible to anyone – a Jnana yogi has to study and use logic and intelligence, a Bhakti yogi relies on love and devotion, but a Karma yogi mostly just has to show up, and keep showing up. I have always had a high regard for the virtue of showing up, whether it’s for work, for appointments and events, for classes and study, or, on a larger level, showing up for your life. If you think about it, a lot of people don’t put in the effort to show up for life, not truly. Many people coast along, just getting by, then wake up when they’re 50 and wonder what the heck happened. A Karma yogi makes a commitment to show up every day and be truly present in the work they do.

This book gave me a way of looking at my own life that really meant a lot to me. I’ve received a lot of blessings in my life, I’ve worked really hard, and I’ve also been incredibly lucky. My life is pretty fantastic, but just like anyone, I have parts of my life that are less than ideal. This book gave me a window into how to negotiate my way through those things. For the past five years, I’ve worked in a job that I don’t particularly like. Sometimes I get angry about that, or frustrated, or all worked up; I’ve tried to combat that by reminding myself how lucky I am to have a job at all, let alone a job that pays well, with good health insurance, with colleagues that I like and respect. Reading this book has given me another way to manage my day-to-day frustrations. I’ve started trying to treat my job as my Karma-yoga duty, at least for right now. I have a family to support and a home to maintain, and it’s my duty to go to work and to do my very best while I’m there. By getting worked up and frustrated about my job, feeling trapped by my job, I’m just getting more and more attached to it. If I practice non-attachment, the work goes more quickly and it affects me less. I’m able to leave my work at the office more readily, which allows me to more fully enjoy my home life, which is what really feeds my spirit. This doesn’t mean that I give up on the dream of finding something that suits me better, but it does mean that I feel more peaceful in my day-to-day life. Feeling more peaceful means that I have more of myself to give to my family (and I whine a lot less), and I’m better able to do my work when I’m at the office.

When I read the Bhagavad Gita, I understood the concept of Karma Yoga, but it never really clicked to me how to make that an everyday part of my life. I thought of the larger scale implications of Karma Yoga, but not the small scale ones. Reading Swami Vivekananda’s book has really helped me to understand this better and to apply it to my own life. I’m only at the start of this practice, but just reading the book gave me a great sense of relief, and the lessons that Vivekananda teaches are ones that I want to cultivate.

 

Listening Meditation October 19, 2011

Filed under: reflections,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:37 pm
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In the book The Joy of Living, Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche provides several different, simple meditation techniques. One of my favorites is his meditation on sound (pages 151-152).

Come to rest in a comfortable seated position as for any meditation. Let your mind rest for a few moments in a relaxed state, and then gradually allow yourself to become aware of the sounds happening near you. Depending on your location, these could be sounds like cars driving past, airplanes overhead, the hum of the refrigerator, birds chirping, or just the sound of your own heartbeat and breath. You may want to play a recording of natural sounds or some soothing music, and that’s fine too. Listen to the sounds happening around you. Don’t try to identify each sound or focus on a specific sound – just be aware of the sounds you hear without assigning meaning or value to them. Be in the present moment, cultivating “a simple, bare awareness” of each sound as it comes to you.

You may only be able to focus on the sounds around you for a few moments before your mind wanders, and that’s okay. When you catch your mind wandering, just bring it back to a calm and relaxed state again for a few moments, and then bring your awareness back to the sounds. Alternate between resting your attention on sounds and letting your mind just rest in a relaxed state.

One of the things that I find challenging about this meditation is listening to the sounds without assigning meaning to them. For example, meditating after a rainstorm, I heard the sump pump kick on in my basement. Immediately I recognized it as the sump pump and realized that water must be coming in the basement, and the fact that the pump kicked on meant that my basement would stay dry. All of that meaning occurred to me when I heard the sound. I’ll also often hear my husband moving around upstairs, and when I hear his noises, I can’t help but smile since I do kind of like him a lot. But working with this meditation, we’re trying to open our minds and listen without generating the emotional response. Building that skill fosters in a small way the sort of non-attachment that is the goal of yoga and meditation.

The monk and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh also writes about sound in his book Peace is Every Step. He notes that a bell is sometimes used in meditation practice, as a call to stop the mind from wandering. The sound of the bell brings you back to your true Self. Hanh suggests that any sound, even an unpleasant sound, can have the same effect if we let it. Hearing a siren, or a barking dog, or the sump pump kicking on, we can think to ourselves, “Listen! Listen! This beautiful sound brings me back to my true Self.” I love this idea. We can separate the fear, annoyance, or frustration we usually feel when we hear an unpleasant sound and instead feel peaceful. “Listen! Listen! This beautiful sound brings me back to my true Self.” I want to think that all day long.

 

Aversions September 16, 2011

Filed under: reflections,yoga,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:52 pm
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For our homework this month, we were instructed to make a list of our likes and dislikes, attachments and aversions. The purpose of this exercise isn’t to see if we like ice cream or whatever – we’re intended to look critically at ourselves, at the attachments and aversions that hold us back in our spiritual practice. Attachment and aversion are actually two of the kleshas, or obstacles to achieving enlightenment; when one is focused on enjoying pleasant experiences or avoiding unpleasant ones, then that person won’t be focused on meditation. Pleasant things come and go, and so do unpleasant things, but the true Self remains unchanging and unaffected by momentary events. Plus, even if you’re not worried about spirituality, it’s a good idea to examine your attachments and aversions: what’s really so great about this? what bothers me so much about that? The answers could be surprising!

Earlier this week I posted my list of attachments (here and here). Here’s my list of aversions, with some commentary about each one.

Broccoli

This is going to sound silly, but I hate the taste of broccoli. I read once that some people either have an extra enzyme or are missing an enzyme, and this makes certain foods (like broccoli) taste very differently than they do for most people. I am clearly one of those with weird taste buds, because I can’t find anything pleasant about broccoli. Further, I was forced to eat broccoli as a kid, and that experience has made a simple dislike deepen into true aversion (when I was 12 or so, I actually vomited after having to eat broccoli, and after that my mother never made me eat it again). So my experience with broccoli is both physical and psychological. I know that broccoli has a lot of nutritional value, but I just cannot bring myself to eat it, and I’ll actively and obsessively pick it out of any food I’m served.

Cold Weather

I hate being cold. The books we’ve been reading for teacher training all say that to the true yogi, heat and cold are the same, but I just can’t imagine getting to that point. Part of the problem is surely the lack of sunlight during the winter months – I feel cold and uncomfortable, and then without sunlight I just get depressed. I’ve started taking vitamin D supplements for this and it really does help. However, I really just don’t like being cold.

My Job

There are many things that I appreciate about my job. I’m paid well, I work with great people, my work is respected by my colleagues and I’m good at it, and my company gives back to the community, values its employees, and does provide a valuable service in the world. I’m grateful to even have a job at all in this economy, let alone a job as good as mine. However, I just don’t enjoy the work, and I never have in the five years I’ve worked here. I know that everybody hates their job sometimes and that I need to make the best of what I’ve got, but that’s just hard to do on Sunday nights and Monday mornings when I’m dreading going back to the office. When I imagine spending another five years in this job, I just feel bleak. I try to combat this by taking one day at a time instead of focusing on the long term, by focusing on all the wonderful non-job things in my life, and by trying to do my best at each task at the office regardless of how much I enjoy it.

 

 
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