Rox Does Yoga

Yoga, Wellness, and Life

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!

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Stop Worrying April 4, 2013

Filed under: wellness,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 12:49 pm
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I was impressed with this article: The Most Surprising Regret Of The Very Old — And How You Can Avoid It. The author, Karl Pillemer, asked hundreds of older Americans what they regretted most, and the answer was often that they regretted the time they spent worrying. Here’s a quote:

Their advice on this issue is devastatingly simple and direct: Worry is an enormous waste of your precious and limited lifetime. They suggested training yourself to reduce or eliminate worrying as the single most positive step you can make toward greater happiness. The elders conveyed, in urgent terms, that worry is an unnecessary barrier to joy and contentment.

The implications of Pillemer’s research are clear: don’t waste time on worry. Instead, go out and live your precious life! The article includes three tips for how to accomplish this, including focusing on the short term instead of the long term (present moment!), and practicing an attitude of acceptance. This strategy fits right in with what Patanjali tells us in the Yoga Sutras: when negative thoughts arise, positive ones should be thought of instead. For more ideas along these lines, check out my past post on Yoga & Emotions: Worry.

What do you think? What are your techniques to reduce how much you worry?

 

Thinking about shame March 12, 2013

Filed under: books,reflections,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:21 pm
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Fear and Other Uninvited Guests, by Harriet LernerI’d read Harriet Lerner’s book Fear and Other Uninvited Guests before, about six years ago, but thought that rereading it now would be helpful for some of my current mommy guilt issues. And it was helpful, but I felt like a lot of the information was very familiar to me, either because I’d read the book before or from my yoga work and yoga reading. So rather than a full book review, I’ll just hit the highlights that particularly spoke to me this time around.

Lerner focuses on fear, anxiety, and shame, three emotions that everyone has but that no one particularly wants to deal with. Lerner’s book is unique in that she doesn’t attempt to come up with a quick solution. What she recommends is learning to work with these powerful emotions: rather than being afraid of them, dreading them, and trying to push them down, she recommends getting used to them and learning how to function with them. I kind of like this approach; it reminds me of what I’ve read in some Buddhist books about moving through strong emotion.

A few sample passages that I particularly liked:

Unlike guilt, the experience of shame is not tied to a specific behavior. Instead, it is linked to who we believe we are, deep down. We feel shame when we think we’re too ugly, stupid, fat, mentally ill, needy, or incompetent to be worthy of receiving love or even walking around on the planet, using up valuable oxygen. Shame feeds the conviction that another person couldn’t possibly love or respect us if he or she really knew the whole, pitiful, God-awful truth about us. Helen Block Lewis, perhaps the first psychologist to give shame its due, made this crucial distinction. Guilt is about doing. Shame is about being. (page 121)

Sometimes, though, our feelings about our appearance have little to do with anything about our physical selves at all. We’re anxious, insecure, or upset about something else. Shame and self-loathing get focused on the body, but the true sources of anxiety are obscured from view. Anytime we become anxiously overfocused on this or that part of our body or appearance, it’s a good bet that we are underfocused on something else, past or present, that we don’t want to look at. (page 155)

I thought these two passages described really well some of the things that I’ve experienced when I’m in a dark place. The first passage really nails my whole “I could be better” problem: it’s one thing to want to do a better job at something, but it’s something else to wish I were better in and of myself. There’s been many a time when I’ve been sobbing my eyes out in the kitchen telling F (or my previous partner, he got hit with it too) about how I fail at everything and wish that I were a better person: a better wife, better mother, better friend, just *better*. Reading this passage really connected, for me, that this wanting to be better isn’t about how good or bad I am in actuality, but is about some shame that I must feel about who I am. I can say confidently that this sort of shame can be really painful and debilitating. I struggle with it all the time.

I like the second passage because it’s the first time I’ve seen someone explain another thing that often happens to me: that when I’m upset about something specific, like a bad day at work or letting a loved one down in some way, the next mental step I take is to get down on myself for my appearance. I call it “falling down the rabbit hole”, because my thoughts just spiral down and down. “I really disappointed my mom – she deserves a better daughter. I was such a slacker at work today, I didn’t get anything done. And I’m SO FAT,” I’ll think in disgust. And whether I’m overweight or not, what the hell does that have to do with anything? Nothing. It’s just another convenient way to put myself down, a shame target for my brain to aim at.

Lerner’s point is that no matter how strong emotions like shame, fear, and anxiety are, we can’t let them take over or stop us from doing what we want to do. We have to keep moving, through the bad feeling. Everyone has negative feelings sometimes – we can’t help that – but if we just hide out and wallow in it, the shame or anxiety will only get worse, more paralyzing. It’s by daring to take action in spite of our fears that we can learn to deal with these strong emotions and get past them.

 

One or Two? February 28, 2013

Filed under: reflections,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:07 pm
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Pretty much as soon as I brought YogaBaby home from the Birth Center, I’ve been worrying over whether we’ll have a second child. At first my worries were entirely childbirth-related: feeling kind of traumatized by the whole thing, I never wanted to think about doing it again. Then my midwife brought up birth control at my six-week postpartum check-up, and I started worrying in earnest. Did I want another child? Well, my heart sure seems to want one. But could we afford daycare for two children? And we’ve been getting by with just one car: my trusty two-door VW Rabbit. A second child would necessitate trading up for a larger car at the very least, possibly getting a second car. My VW, though tiny, is at least paid off, and so new cars would lead to car payments and more costs for insurance, gas, and maintenance. We’re comfortable now, but finances would be a lot tighter with a second baby. And what about things like yoga time, writing time, and just plain grownup time? We’re starting to get these things back now, but having two kids would probably mean giving them up again long-term. And would I really want to be pregnant again? I loved being pregnant, but from my vantage point here it seems like an awful lot of work. In many ways I think it would be good for YB to have a sibling, and I think having two kids would be a lot of fun, especially when they’re older, but the stress and exhaustion of having two young children that worries me. Do we want to go through that, even for the payoff of having two great kids down the line?

You may tell me that I have plenty of time to decide, and while it’s true that I don’t have to decide right this minute, I’ll be 34 this year, and F will be 36. Besides just the biology of my aging body, F points out that he’d like to be done with diapers by the time he’s 40, and that seems pretty fair. I’d like that too. A few months back I told myself that because I wanted to breastfeed YB for the first full year, we didn’t have to decide about another baby until her first birthday, and that helped for a while. Now, though, she’s getting older and leaving many baby things behind already. In many ways, that’s awesome – we get so much more sleep now! – but somehow holding a newborn is very different from holding a seven-month-old. I appreciated the hell out of my time with her when she was tiny, and every day I appreciate all her wiggling, hand-clapping, trying-to-be-standing action, but it still aches a little to think that that particular sweet time is over.

Clearly this is a huge issue that requires a lot of thought and discussion. This post is really just a quick synopsis of what F and I have been talking about. But I bring it up because I realized something. I noticed that I tend to think about (and obsess over) the possibility of Baby 2 when I feel the most overwhelmed, the most tired, the most insecure in myself. There’s a part of me worrying that F wouldn’t want to have another baby with me when I’ve shown myself to be such an unsupportive train wreck of a partner when there’s only one child to worry about; there’s a part of me worrying that I might want to have a second baby and won’t because I’m such a crap mom to the one I have now.

And I have to say, to hell with this nonsense. When I’m happy and engaged in the present moment, you know what? I don’t think about having a second baby, because I’m too busy enjoying the one I have. It’s my anxieties and fears and shames that are driving this constant worrying. Another baby will happen or not, depending on what F and I choose (and on, you know, fate and stuff), but my personal failings aren’t really a part of that decision, because I’m only human and so is F. The next time this issue comes up for me, I need to close my eyes and take some deep breaths. I need to remind myself that it’s just anxiety talking. And then let it go.

 

Quote of the day: Buddha lives in the present moment July 30, 2012

Filed under: yoga lifestyle,yoga philosophy — R. H. Ward @ 10:16 am
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For my birthday last week, my husband gave me (among other things) a magnet with the following quote:

“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.”

– Buddha

This is exactly what I was talking about last week – that I’m a better mom, and a better overall person, when I stay in the present rather than replaying moments from the past or worrying about problems that might arise in the future. Hooray for the Buddha for saying it so well (and hooray for my husband and his prescient magnet shopping).

 

Yoga Mom: Present Moment, Wonderful Moment July 26, 2012

Filed under: reflections,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 10:59 am
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Two and a half weeks in, and motherhood is pretty awesome so far, as is my gorgeous kid. I’m amazed by how enchanted I am with her – her goofy faces, her little toes, even the contents of her diapers are all endlessly fascinating. Yesterday we had a really good day together. Nothing extra-special, just us girls hanging out. She’s starting to become more aware of what’s going on around her, of what I look like from a few feet away, of what my voice sounds like when I sing to her, all of which just inspires me to interact with her more. Yesterday we sang and chatted and snuggled, and it was a really good day.

One thing that struck me is that I’m a better mom to her when I’m happy. This seems like an obvious no-brainer, but it’s the sort of thing you don’t really think about, you know? Of course there are times when I’m really tired and I just stare at her all bleary-eyed, without the energy to engage with her. Some of that is just part of the package deal of having a little baby, but part of it has been because I’m worrying about my husband having to go to work and I’m trying to take on as much of the nighttime stuff as I can so he can sleep. But when I try to do everything myself, I’m not taking care of myself, which I should do just in general and because I’m still healing. If I’m not taking care of myself, then I’m not going to be as present for her as she deserves. There have also been days when I’m preoccupied, worrying about the future, about what will happen when I have to go back to work – but when I’m worrying about the future, I’m not here in the present moment with her. Yesterday I’d had a decent amount of sleep, and for some reason I let all of the worrying go and just spent time with her. And it was a great day.

From a yogic perspective, this reminds me of the four duties of a yogi – that the yogi needs to care for herself first, in order to have enough to give to others. And it also reminds me to live in the present moment, rather than dwelling on the past or worrying over the future. And on that note, someone’s waking up, so I’m going to spend this moment with her.

 

Thoughts on Natural Childbirth April 10, 2012

Filed under: reflections,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 2:02 pm
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Recently I read a fantastic article about natural childbirth that really excited me and made me glad to be planning one: The Most Scientific Birth Is Often the Least Technological Birth. Then I scrolled down to view the comments, which I don’t recommend doing, because it left me feeling frustrated, disgusted, and honestly quite shaken by the strength and depth of people’s vitriol. To sum up quickly, some people strongly feel that all birth should happen in a hospital with an epidural and supervised by a medical doctor, while others strongly feel that all births should happen naturally at home. The whole long comment string bothered me enough that I wanted to respond.

For thousands – heck, millions – of years, women have been giving birth naturally. This is a fact, because otherwise we wouldn’t be here talking about it. Before the advent of modern medical technology, childbirth was a dangerous endeavor: there was always a percentage of women who could give birth naturally and healthfully, and a percentage who had serious trouble. These percentages vary depending on the region and culture, but overall, childbirth was feared because you never knew until you got there whether you’d die. And what modern technology has done is to remove that fear and uncertainty by making childbirth safe for those for whom it would otherwise be dangerous. This is an amazingly wonderful thing. However, there is still, as there always has been, a percentage of women for whom a natural childbirth isn’t dangerous, and to insist on applying the same technology to this group, simply because it helped the others, is to introduce costly medical procedures that may not be needed, won’t necessarily help anything, and might introduce complications. That isn’t to say that the women who need those things shouldn’t get them – I have friends who are alive today with healthy alive children because of modern medicine, which I’m incredibly grateful for. But for some women, if it’s working all by itself, why change it?

I’ve been lucky enough to have a completely normal pregnancy so far – very low-risk. Considering that I’m a vegetarian yoga teacher who practices meditation, it probably won’t surprise you to learn that I’ve planned for a natural childbirth with a midwife. I still worry about the birth – what first-time mom wouldn’t? – but I have confidence in my caregivers, in the birth center facility I’ve chosen, and in myself that I can deal with the pain. I honestly feel less scared by the idea of doing it naturally than I do about the idea of having an epidural. Personally, I feel like a natural birth is the right choice for me; yogically (because this after all is a yoga blog), I feel like a natural birth fits in well with my other life choices. In a natural birth setting I’ll be able to be in touch with my body, to move around as I need to, to let my body lead the process, and I’ll be able to control my responses to pain and manage my pain with my own mind. This path seems to fit in well with the yamas and niyamas and other tenets of yoga, which I truly believe in and follow as best I can.

However, believe me, if there’d been any indication whatsoever that a natural birth could harm me or my baby, I’d be making different plans. What’s more, my birth center would immediately refer me to a specialist if any complications came up. My birth center has a very good record (approximately 500 births per year with a c-section rate of only 10% or so), but they know their target audience (healthy women with uncomplicated pregnancies), as well as their strengths and limitations. The health of mother and baby is most important, so my midwife won’t hesitate to send me to someone else for my care if a complication arises, or, if something happens during the birth, to transfer me to a hospital. That’s why my birth center is located right across the street from a major hospital with an excellent record of maternity care, so that if any problems arise during the birth, I can be transferred quickly and efficiently for whatever services I might need. The idea of a home birth really made me nervous – for trivial reasons (like worrying that I’d spend the whole birth worrying about who’s going to clean up the mess) and for more substantial reasons (that our home is 10-15 minutes away from the nearest hospital, which is not a hospital known for maternity care). Using a birth center seems like the perfect choice for me, because it will allow me to have a natural birth in a comfortable setting, attended by experienced professionals, with proximity to all the wonders of modern technology if I need them.

So, going back to that original article, I think that the people making virulent comments about the cult of natural childbirth are not exactly accurate. My experience so far has been that my midwives and nurse practitioners are all eminently reasonable people, knowledgeable and well educated in their field, and worthy of being trusted to put my and my baby’s health and safety above anything else. No, natural childbirth isn’t for everyone – and two months from now, depending on the circumstances, it may even turn out that natural childbirth isn’t for me. But technological interventions aren’t for everyone, either, and each woman should be able to decide for herself in conjunction with her caregiver about what path is best for her.

(In commenting, please remember that this is a personal blog and I reserve the right to delete any comment that I feel is rude or derogatory. Thank you.)