Trusting the Circuitous Path: Navigating the Journey with Japa December 6, 2016 14:01
I was late to school this morning—over 45 minutes late. Normally, this would really bother me. I hate being late, the inconvenience of waiting and making others wait. However, today was different. On this cold, rainy December morning, the universe was placing necessary detours in my path in order to give me more time to slow down and think. A fender bender, flashing police lights, and a long line of traffic forced me to turn right instead of left. An endless stream of yellow lights and a delay on my usual interstate exit ramp convinced me to go way out of my way and explore the side streets instead. I took a break from my usual routine, letting go of time, letting go of the usual obligations, and, along the way, reflected on what I’ve learned during this past year.
*Trust Yourself: Follow Your Own Compass
Feeling lost has always been unsettling for me. I have friends who deliberately try to lose themselves in a forest or new city—they enjoy the adventure of finding their way out of the tangle of uncertainty. For me, that uncertainty creates mind-numbing anxiety and fear. I like to know where I’m going, and I’m really bad with directions, so finding my way is often a challenge and a real struggle.
This year I’ve had several opportunities to venture off the usual path, literally, and metaphorically—to explore new places—to interact with new people—to trust my own instincts and rely on my internal guidance more than external markers and guideposts. The more I can breathe, relax, and allow, the easier this process becomes, and the more I can enjoy the adventures.
*Establish Necessary Boundaries
Because I like to know where I’m going, I crave parameters. Unfortunately, I have a tendency to honor other people’s guidelines before following my own. This year, however, I have practiced making my own boundaries a priority, paying much closer attention to what’s happening in my own mind and heart. For seven months, I taught yoga at a studio that was an hour’s commute from my home. While I enjoyed teaching the class, and I enjoyed working with my students, the business owner wasn’t paying me regularly. After a couple of bounced paychecks and one too many half-hearted pleas for understanding and patience had worn thin, I walked away. I felt bad for leaving my students, but this obligation was becoming more of a burden than a joy. My regret, however, was short-lived. I currently enjoy having more time to spend with my family, and more time to devote to my own personal yoga practice at home.
*Relax, There’s Plenty of Time
Time dissolves when I do what I enjoy. For more than a year, I have dedicated time each day to a japa practice. I have worked with a single mantra (the long version of the Gayatri) and a specific mala for this practice, and I have noticed significant, positive changes as a result of this practice. I’m more patient with myself and others; I’m more flexible and willing to adapt when unexpected surprises occur; I’m more relaxed and comfortable with myself and others, and, most importantly, I’m able to recognize that time is an imposed construct--and that no one’s life truly revolves around it.
I was 45 minutes late to work this morning, and I didn’t really care. I listened to music on the way, I enjoyed the drive and the time to reflect, I arrived safely, and I was able to assist my students in a meaningful way during the course of the day.
Despite all of the setbacks and disappointments of 2016, this has been a good year. I’ve learned and grown a great deal, and I look forward to what 2017 has to offer. My japa practice has helped me navigate and manage the many ups and downs, and it’s been the steady needle of my life’s compass, helping to guide me along this amazing, circuitous path.
Giving and Receiving: Three Keys to Finding Balance October 4, 2016 12:05
I recently learned that one of my dearest friends from junior high/high school passed away suddenly. We lost touch a few years after graduation, but learning of her passing stirred up old memories for me.
Josie was a very kind-hearted, sincere person. Everyone loved her. She was popular and active in orchestra, drama, journalism, Student Council, speech and debate, and German club. In high school, we worked together at a local Dairy Queen.
Josie was a giver—she willingly gave her time and energy to anyone who needed it. She was a doer and a people-pleaser. She often went out of her way to help someone else, even if it meant sacrificing her own well-being.
Learning of her recent passing was a shock. She left behind a young daughter and many family members and friends who are reeling from this loss. Her passing is a fierce reminder of how important it is to set boundaries and balance giving with receiving.
I know from my own experiences how easy it is to get sucked into the giving vortex—that all-consuming need to fulfill others’ obligations or serve others so as not to disappoint. It feels good to be helpful, but if not balanced with taking the time to nurture and restore your own reserves, it can be exhausting.
Finding this balance is like breathing. Breathing is involuntary —we don’t have to think about it; it just happens. However, this can be a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, we don’t have to worry about scheduling time to breathe— on the other hand, it becomes too easy to take this vital activity for granted.
Each breath we take is a reminder of how essential it is to balance giving and receiving. Giving without receiving is like exhaling without inhaling. Eventually, it depletes you of your energy, time, and motivation. It’s exhausting, unnatural, and unhealthy.
So what do you do when you find this delicate balance of give and receive has shifted? How do you recover, nourish the self, and restore balance?
When you first begin to notice the tug of obligation pulling you into the vortex of endless giving, stop!
Don’t do ANYTHING—even if it’s for a few minutes. Lock yourself in a bathroom or step outside and gaze at the sky to take a much-needed perspective break.
Turn off the gadgets
Moments like these are when the benefits of a meditation practice really start to pay off. By pausing and paying attention to how you’re feeling and observing what you’re thinking can help guide you. Giving yourself permission to sit, stand, lean against a wall and just BE without doing, thinking, and strategizing can help prevent another exhausting loop inside the vortex.
2. MAKE TIME—don’t find it—you won’t—you have to actively MAKE TIME to do something that nourishes yourself.
Go for a walk (the woods, a park, the beach—find a nearby beautiful place to explore)
Make a nourishing meal (for yourself)
Read (FOR FUN)
Go see a movie
3. Set Healthy Boundaries by Saying NO
You cannot please everyone, and only a fool will try. Setting boundaries by saying “No” with conviction and respect is like the pause between the exhale and the inhale. It marks a necessary shift from giving to receiving. You cannot effectively help, serve, or give to others if you do not take the time to nurture yourself. The trick to this one is knowing when you’ve given enough, and knowing when it’s time to pause and fill up your own reserves. Also, understand that you will disappoint some people at times—but it’s OK—they’ll get over it. If they love and respect you, they’ll understand and forgive you. If they don’t, then they weren’t worth your time and effort in the first place.
I’m grieving the loss of my childhood friend. Josie was a kind-hearted, beautiful spirit, and I will miss her. I’ve actively included her memory in my personal meditation practice—dedicating rounds of my japa practice to her. She was a dear friend and a bright light. She helped me endure a very difficult phase of my life, and she taught me several powerful, meaningful life lessons. Her friendship was a treasure.