The month of January has been crazy – snow, a double ear infection, a virus, a foot of snow, an out-of-town guest, more snow, and an electrical fire at our daycare (yes, seriously! everyone is fine) – but I wanted to share this great post: Raising a Kind Daughter. With a daughter to raise, I really enjoyed this writer’s perspective (and with all the various reasons my daughter has been unable to go to daycare this month, I needed the reminder!).
Practicing Satya and Ahimsa at Work January 16, 2014
Lately I’ve been thinking about my own behavior and wanting to get better at practicing kindness, and going along with it, the intersections of satya and ahimsa. Back when I first began my yoga teacher training journey, I thought a lot about satya and ahimsa, but then the topic sort of fell off my mind’s back burner and I hadn’t considered it in a while. Lately, though, I’ve been noticing myself engaging in some inappropriate behavior and comments, especially at work.
For example, one of my colleagues in my office – we’ll call him Larry – has a droning, lengthy way of talking that makes him difficult to listen to, and he’s in a position where he periodically conducts trainings, all of which seem to do in an hour what could have been accomplished in 20 minutes with time for questions. This would be bad enough, but Larry is also not a very friendly or nice man, and my friends who have worked with him more closely report that he’s also not very good at his job. However, not even all of this taken together is justification for making fun of him behind his back. I’ve caught myself saying some rather cruel things about Larry when he comes up in conversation, just for the purpose of getting a laugh. No one deserves to be the butt of a joke – who knows what’s going on in Larry’s life that makes him act the way he does? And all of the things I’ve said about Larry may be technically true, but did they need to be said? Or did they need to be said that way? Practicing satya demands that I be truthful, but it doesn’t demand that I say every truth out loud; practicing ahimsa means not letting violence into my speech. This is one of those instances where, if I don’t have anything nice to say, I shouldn’t say anything at all.
One of my colleagues at another company, Bob, sent an email asking about a project. I had told Bob about the project back in May and we’d even paid Bob’s first invoice for work on this project, so I got annoyed. Instead of just giving Bob the information he needed, I dug up the earlier correspondence and forwarded that along too, and then sent an email to another involved editor at my company, basically saying “That Bob! He needs to get his act together!” Now, maybe Bob did need to get his act together – it seems that there was something incorrect in his records, which was why it didn’t come up when he looked for the project – but there was no need for me to act the way I did. Everybody makes mistakes, and Bob is no exception. I should have just given him the information he needed in a non-judgmental way. And the extra email to my coworker was completely out of line. Again, practicing that balance of satya and ahimsa would have helped me here – delivering the truth and no more, in a kind and compassionate way.
I think part of this issue stems from my own uncertainty in my job. I was moved to another group last summer, and we’re still shaking out some of our roles. Sometimes I have a lot of very important time sensitive work to do; other times I am processing invoices or doing other basic work because our group doesn’t have an editorial assistant; still other times, I am waiting for work to be given to me. I am supposed to have my own projects, but because of my boss’s deeper involvement in the overall product, much of the workflow is still tied up around her and has to go through her first; often I feel like I am waiting for her to give me tasks to do, which is frustrating because I’m used to working independently. I think I’ve been taking this frustration out on others – putting down people like Larry and Bob to make myself feel more secure and more important.
But the office isn’t a playground, and this behavior is childish. What I need to do instead is to open myself to learning new things – if I can learn more about what my boss does on our overarching product, I’ll be able to work more autonomously and will be able to help her more with her heavy workload, balancing out the work between us. Opening my heart and practicing humility on the larger scale, practicing satya and ahimsa in the short-term – these will help me to navigate these challenges and respond to my colleagues with the compassion they deserve.
The daily struggle to be a better person January 2, 2014
To start the new year off right, I wanted to share this quote from Cheryl Strayed’s Facebook page:
Is there ever an end to the daily struggle to be a better person? I’m not asking this rhetorically. I’m wondering if there’s a time when you reach it, when you say “I can no longer think of any way to be a better person.” (Or maybe there are people who do not ponder every day how they can be a better person?) When I say “better person” I don’t mean that I constantly tell myself how awful I am but rather I’m very aware of the ways in which I could’ve done better as a friend, as a mom, as a spouse, as a sister, as a writer, as a woman with some serious aspirations for this thing called “balance” (ie: time for exercise, lounging, sex, thrift-store shopping, voracious reading). On a pretty much daily basis I think of how I’ve failed in many of these areas. It’s not a self-hate thing, but rather a deep desire I have to someday fall asleep thinking, “Well done, Strayed. You’ve got it down.” I’m reflecting on this as the first day of 2014 comes to an end here on the west coast of America. Not thinking “Well done, Strayed” but thinking instead, “Maybe next year. Maybe tomorrow. Keep going. Keep walking. Just try to do better in every action, intention, thought and deed.” Happy new year, my friends. I hope 2014 is a revelation and a firecracker for you.
I LOVE this. Strayed is a writer I really admire, both personally and professionally, and I think she really hits the nail on the head here. May we all keep striving to be better people in the coming year.
Things to Do in Life December 16, 2013
I was, just a few moments ago in the ladies room and as I often do, pondering the Things I Want to Teach My Daughter. You know, the things that if somehow she grows up without ever learning them properly I’ll feel like I completely failed at being her mom no matter how awesome she otherwise is; the things that, if she grows up knowing them, I hope will enable her to get a head start on doing a better job of life than her mom has after spending 30+ years figuring them out. So I thought I’d share. I hereby present you with a brief list of The Things I Consider Important to Do in Life (Some of Which May Overlap):
- Love wholeheartedly and unashamedly. (This goes for loving humans, other creatures, events [like parties or Christmas], and activities [like painting or dancing or using your EZ Pass to go through the tollbooth or wearing your yellow raincoat on rainy days]. It even goes for things [like your yellow raincoat or your favorite shirt or the art bought on your honeymoon], although loving living things should always come first.) Be full of love.
- Be kind and compassionate to all creatures, including yourself.
- Find the work that’s yours to do in the world, and do it the very best you can.
- Leave the world a better place than you found it.
- Understand that you are whole and complete and wonderful just as you are right now; never stop striving to educate yourself and become a better person.
- Have a sense of humor, particularly about all of the above.
- The world is beautiful; be present in it and enjoy the hell out of it.
I’m probably missing some obvious things here – it’s only seven bullet points as compared to all of life, after all, and I already realize I left out gratitude but seven bullet points seems much stronger than eight, and if you’re loving and compassionate and present in the world then hopefully you are also grateful – but I feel like this covers most of the bases pretty well.
My further thought is that, while all of these points can be applied on a lifetime scale, which may be the obvious way to use them, they perhaps would be most useful when applied on a daily basis. Did you leave the world a better place than you found it today? Yes, I put up my holiday decorations and cleaned out the sink. Did you work hard, did you try to improve yourself? Yes, but I was tired and skipped my yoga practice, so maybe I can do more there tomorrow. Did you love wholeheartedly today? Were you kind and compassionate today? Well, maybe I yelled at someone this morning, so I will try to make it up to him or to pay it forward with extra love tomorrow. Did you taste your good food, appreciate the feeling of the child in your arms, and notice how blue the sky was? Yes. Yes I did.
What are your top things to do in life?
Managing Poor Me November 21, 2013
The other day I had what I decided to call a “poor me” day. A colleague in Europe keeps scheduling meetings at 8 AM EST, when I usually get to the office at 8:35, and with YB it’s hard to change my morning routine to come in any earlier. Why can’t the folks in Europe have meetings at 3 PM their time instead of 2 PM? My office just went through a restacking process and most of the employees had to move seats, and because I was switched to a new group last summer, now I’m not sitting with my friends from my old group anymore. And why is no one coming to my yoga classes? Well, I know why, and I need to do more marketing, but it’s so hard! And I want to see friends and family more often, but it’s hard enough just keeping the three of us washed and fed, never mind that F was just sick for a month straight and there’s piles of things all over the dining room table and the office upstairs and toys all over the porch. When are we supposed to do our Christmas shopping? It’s just hanging over me like an anvil of holiday disappointment; no one’s even scheduled any holiday parties or anything yet and I’m already feeling the pressure. What’s the running theme here? It’s so hard! Poor me! When I get in a funk like this, there are two things I try to do.
First, I try to look at all the things worrying me in an objective way. Yes, work can be tough sometimes, but I have an interesting, challenging job working with people all over the world on exciting products I really believe in. Would I want another job? No way. And I love teaching yoga. This is my passion – it’s worth the work to market my class, and it’s not going to happen overnight. As for friends and family and holidays: poor me, I have all these wonderful people who love me and want to spend time with me! Every time we make the time to connect with friends and family, it’s totally worth it and I’m always so glad we did. And as for that biggest time eater, the one who makes all of the above more challenging – well, I’m sure not giving HER away. It’s hard to be a mom, to make sure she’s clean and dressed and warm and eating something remotely nutritious, and to keep her entertained and content and learning, but she brings me joy every single day. I love watching her explore the world; she makes all the work worthwhile.
The other thing I think about is that all of those “poor me” statements are passive. “Look at all the bad things happening to me and making my life so hard!” they’re saying. This kind of mindset ignores the fact that I chose my life. I chose to live in this city, to accept this job, to have this child – my life and my responsibilities didn’t just happen to me, I chose them freely. And I have the power to make other choices that affect my daily life. I can talk to my colleagues about meeting scheduling and try to actively develop a better plan; I choose to make a big deal out of Christmas because I love it; and if I’m truly overwhelmed, I have the power to say no and sign up for fewer things. I have choice and agency in how my life unfolds, and I have the power to make change happen. Keeping this in mind when I start to experience the “poor mes” will help me keep a yogic attitude and get less frustrated with the little details of my amazing life. I don’t have to get attached to the little frustrating things – I can let them go and focus on what’s really important.
On Mirrors November 7, 2013
Lately I’ve been thinking about the role of mirrors in a yoga class. The studio where I’m teaching now (Wellness on Park! Tuesdays at 7:30!) doesn’t have a mirror wall, and neither does EEY, but I’ve practiced at plenty of studios that do, and if you’re taking yoga classes at a gym, the fitness room will almost always have a mirror wall. Mirrors can be great for yoga practice because often, catching sight of yourself while in an asana will lead you to immediately correct your posture – dropping your shoulders, twisting farther, standing up taller, straightening your arms. Seeing what you look like can help you fix issues you can’t feel.
But just as often, mirrors can lead you to being overly critical. Practicing without a mirror, you might feel like a rock star, which pretty much instantly dissolves when you catch a glimpse of your belly or your tush. Especially as women, we get so used to hating certain parts of our reflections, which makes it hard to see the whole – which in a yoga class is you, strong and powerful.
Looking in the mirror can lead you to compete with others, trying to make your posture match that of the person beside you, regardless of whether your level of ability matches that of the other person. It’s so much easier to compare when we see ourselves side by side with someone else in the same pose. We forget that what’s natural and healthy for her may not be good or even possible for us. And when there’s a mirror, it’s hard NOT to look in it, which changes the focus of your whole practice, keeping you constantly peeking instead of focusing your mind on your mat.
In recent years, I’ve come to prefer practicing without a mirror. I lose those valuable visual cues that could improve my asana, but I’m less apt to compare myself to others without that visual reminder that I’m not actually a rock star, and I’m better able to focus on my own experience of the pose, what the pose feels like to me and whether it feels right for my body. My experience of the asana can become internal, rather than external. This is what I want to share with my students: every person’s yoga practice is unique, and uniquely beautiful, because no two bodies are the same. My warrior 2 is not better than yours or anyone else’s. Keep your mind on your own mat, and be present here, now.