“The willingness to practice at all is a form of bravery. Practice courage in these small ways on the mat, and it will be there for you when you need it most.” —Marianne Elliott
I’ve started on a very new and exciting journey: I’m doing yoga teacher training! And this journey completely excites and terrifies me at the same time. But in the first two weekends of the training (we only meet every other week) I’ve been learning and thinking a lot about the nature and purpose of yoga and I wanted to take the time to share some of those reflections.
When I started doing yoga, I really just wanted to stop being lazy and fat. I wanted to be able to control and tone my body. I think that in our society, this is probably why most people start doing yoga. It can really be a great work out. As I started going to classes more regularly, I got into the challenge of yoga. I wanted to be able to bend deeper and build strength. I enjoyed the focus on my core and I dreamt that with focus, discipline, and determination I would one day be doing inversions and twists and looking fabulous in them.
But then I didn’t really stick with yoga. My interest seemed to wax and wane. And then I met my teacher and she started teaching differently. Her classes were no longer intense boot-camp style vinyasa flow classes where sweat was everywhere. She started doing this funky thing called the moon practice. The focus shifted from movement into stillness and focus on the breath. I hated the first moon practice I went to. I remember holding chair for what felt like years and wanting to just walk out and never come back. But then I somehow made it through that practice and the overall effect of calm collectedness had me coming back. I suddenly knew that in order to deal with my life, I needed the moon practice to calm me down.
Already, I’m realizing that yoga is not really about movement or physical exercise. Yoga is all about the mind. And I think something in me was always drawn to that. I love the ways in which working through a really good yoga class actually takes me out of my body and helps me focus my mind. The best yoga classes I have ever attended (and now my own personal practice) is really all about calming down the body in order to really focus the mind. And now that I’m reading the yoga sutras, I’m understanding how all of this will hopefully come together for me.
And yet, this journey I’m beginning will require so many of the virtues I struggle with: patience, discipline, compassion, kindness, inquiry, forgiveness, purity, cleanliness, dedication, and focus (and that’s really just a preliminary list). Let’s just say that I’m terrified and I don’t know exactly where I’m headed but so far the journey is offering me so much. The amount of information I’m processing right now is intense and yet I’m taking notes and reviewing and reading and experiencing. Five years ago, I would not have taken this opportunity. I would have let me fears and self doubt prevent me from following what my heart already knew I needed. But perhaps that’s why this opportunity didn’t come up five years ago. It came up now so that I could be ready to say yes.
Transformation is happening and I can’t wait to share the fruits and realizations that come from this amazing opportunity.
More to come.
I started writing this post on Monday, the day after my race, and had planned to post it on Monday but then life happened and now it’s late Friday night and I’m finally getting around to ironing out the final touches:
I’m not good at facing challenges, but I love taking them on. I love the beginning of a new project; the potential and promise of possibly achieving greatness is so incredibly wonderful at the beginning. And then the work begins and let’s face it: work isn’t really all that fun. When you face challenges head on, you inevitably experience a mixture of failure and success, but I always get stuck on the failure and usually I just give up. All that excited passion at the beginning peters out until I have nothing left. All of a sudden those resolutions, that daily habit, that amazing project I could not wait to complete is a distant memory. I must confess I have a shameful pile of unfinished projects, broken resolutions, and failed diets that all showcase this less than admirable quality about me: I give up when things get difficult.
This summer I challenged myself to be different, to be better. I told myself to only take on projects that I could prioritize appropriately. I spent an absurd amount of time writing and reflecting on where I wanted to see my life go. I decided that I wanted to make healthier living a bigger priority and I got serious about running. I have a mostly hate relationship with running for as long as I remember. I’ve written about this before but most of my memories of running revolve around painfully embarrassing gym classes where I couldn’t even run a mile. But this summer something clicked in me that got me excited about running. I ran consistently 3x a week for the entire summer. And as I started to see progress, I decided I was ready to take the plunge and achieve a goal: in August on my birthday, I signed up for a 5k!
And this last weekend, I ran in that 5k race! Leading up to the race I wasn’t feeling my strongest. I had recently started my yoga teacher training classes (more on that later) and all of a sudden finding time to run seemed something pretty close to impossible. The run that I had made time for in the week before the race was the worst run I had in a while. I was cramping and couldn’t even finish the distance I had set out to run. But the problem with that run was really that it was hot outside and I was probably dehydrated after a full day of work. Again, this speaks to my issues with prioritizing. I discovered something really powerful about myself this summer: I have willpower to do some pretty amazing things but that willpower starts to wane as the day goes on. This is why I always try to schedule my writing for the early morning before my day hits any semblance of full swing. I thrive on morning energy. But my school day starts at 7AM so scheduling a run or yoga for the morning would require a crazy early wake up time and I’m trying to get more sleep these days (a minimum of seven hours!). Scheduling is difficult but not impossible. I can move my runs to the afternoon and still make progress in my training plans but I have to be diligent and recognize that this movement will shift my performance. Plus, I always have the weekends to look forward to!
Anyway, last weekend I saw the fruits of my labor. I completed my first 5k. And when I crossed the finish line I was filled with so many amazing good feelings. I rarely in my life feel genuinely proud of myself but when I crossed that finish line I realized that this is a huge accomplishment for me. Over the last couple months I chose to tackle a challenge that meant something to me. I chose to become stronger and healthier. I’m still reeling from the high of that experience and looking forward to continuing on this path I’ve paved for myself. This summer I became a runner. I set out a plan for myself and I stuck to that plan. Sure, starting a new school year made the goals a lot more challenging but I faced that challenge and I made it to the finish line!
To get through your challenges, both physical and mental, let go of your resistance to them. Accepting difficulty doesn’t mean you have to like it, but hugging into challenges and looking for a lesson in them, rather than pushing them away, can help you let go of them sooner. – Sadie Nardini
Now I see that I can overcome obstacles and face challenges. I can take on projects and actually see them through. I have discipline and determination. I have strength and courage. I have all the tools I need.
Today I’m just sharing a little something from the archives of my creativity collection. This is something I wrote as part of the Jump Start Your Creative Spark course. I found the activity itself to be so incredibly valuable (I hope to revisit this activity throughout my creative life!) and the product actually turned into something I feel is worth sharing so here you go:
Dear 17 Year Old Me,
Stop and breath. Smile. Give yourself a hug. You aren’t perfect and you won’t ever be. Stop trying so hard for the unattainable. Release some of those crazy expectations that you hold so close to that tender heart. You don’t even really know where those expectations came from or why you are holding on to them. They won’t comfort you or keep you warm at night. They will never love you. They only destroy: your heart, your mind, your body, your soul.
You got rejected. You look at this rejection as a defeat. You think that because an admissions director decided you weren’t smart enough or experienced enough or whatever crazy criteria he used to to make his decision you are not enough. But rejection is not the end of the world. You can’t measure yourself based on someone else’s standards. You don’t even know this admissions direct. Instead of focusing on telling yourself that you aren’t good enough, pick up those pieces and make yourself enough. Rejection is not the end of the story; it is the beginning of a new one.
You will have the good fortune of continuing to face rejection and heartbreak. You will cry and scream in frustration and self loathing. You will doubt yourself because of these experiences and then you will rise up from the ashes of rejection and self destruction. Remember that the flaws are what make you unique. The imperfections are what make you beautiful. The uneven surfaces make people stare in wonder.
Keep taking chances. Stop being afraid of rejection. Falling flat on your face is just a beginning. you don’t need to always know exactly where you are headed. The best laid plans never work out. Give up control and focus on your existence. You exist and that is such a beautiful wonder. Stop comparing yourself to other fabulous (and even not so fabulous) people. Even though it feels like it sometimes, life is not a competition. You don’t have to win anything. Just be. That’s really all you need.
Remember that you live a charmed, privileged life full to the brim with promise, potential, and possibility. Make the most of that by acting. Stop living inside your head and overthinking everything. Get messy. Take chances. Fall hard. Get up. Repeat.
You’re in the dark place right now. It’s scary and it hurts but it doesn’t really get any worse. Come back into the light and see how much better it is after you survived the fall.
Your 25 year old slightly wiser self.
I had a good thing going here for a while. I was posting regularly. Fresh off the high of a retreat, the August break, and the promise of a new school year, I got ambitious. I let my head get a little too big and I let myself fall into that world of believing that I could in fact balance it all. I felt larger than life. I felt like I was a goddess.
And then reality caught up with me. Despite my healthier lifestyle of three runs a week, yoga, daily probiotics, green smoothies, and all around healthier food choices, I got sick. No matter how healthy you are, when you’re surrounded by sick teenagers on a retreat, you’re going to get sick.
Being sick wasn’t the end of the world. I’m a trooper when it comes to getting sick. I came from a home where you didn’t miss school unless you were dying so I put on my game face and I tried to keep up appearances. But slowly but surely I was falling behind. The work was piling up. Even though I had my creativity collection and I had completed an editorial calendar for the month of September, I wasn’t finding the time to actually write said posts and get them edited in time to actually post them. All I had energy for was getting myself to school and then back in bed as soon as I got home. I even took one day off after coming home with a hoarse voice and a fever.
And so what had seemed like a somewhat manageable balancing act quickly exploded into an insurmountable pile of backlogged work. And I’ve been wading through that and watching my streak of daily writing and blogging turn into the exact opposite: a streak of creative silence. I wasn’t writing, I wasn’t blogging, and I wasn’t reading blogs. My online presence went from progressively emerging into an essential nonentity.
According to Habit List, an app I’m using to keep track of my Happiness Project goals and my Creative Spark goals, I haven’t blogged in 11 days. Granted I have been trying to do some writing. I have done my morning free wright on at least a couple of those 11 days. I’ve also been taking the journaling thing a lot more seriously since I am enrolled in Susannah Conway’s Journal Your Life e-course. But I’ve fallen pretty far behind on that too. I just wrapped up Week 2 while she is rolling out lessons for Week 4 right now.
The problem is that I am still letting myself fee guilt for the things I haven’t done. I know that blogging or writing or creating will make me feel good. I know that I need this outlet and yet I feel guilty about putting off the grading or planning for another day. I know that I need to sleep and exercise and rest in order to stay healthy, but I feel guilty when I sacrifice productivity for something like sleeping. I don’t always let myself do what I want to do because I feel guilty about not doing what I think I should be doing. And then this back and forth game of guilt really just leads to me making poorer decisions or focusing on something that I can’t really do well because my mind or heart is somewhere else.
So today I hit the reset button. I cleaned out my feedly list which was impressively backlogged into the thousands. I got through a couple stacks of papers at work. I sat down and forced myself to write this mostly imperfect post. I went to yoga. I crafted a new to do list that put my tasks into order by priority. I started throwing out the stuff that I have finally realized I won’t get to. I can’t make up the time I lost. But I can move forward from where I am now.
I’m back. I’m going to be redrafting the editorial calendar for the remainder of the month (and a new one for next month) that helps me get back on track with writing on here. I still have that Creative Spark I wrote about in my last post. I’m not going to let a slump or a negative streak completely derail me. The best way to make something stick as a habit is to pick yourself right back up NOW. Always start today.
I signed up for Melanie Biehle’s Jump-Start Your Creative Spark writing course back in September 2013. When the e-mails came rolling into my inbox I was overwhelmed with school and didn’t really prioritize the jump I was trying to make into my own creativity. I skimmed the e-mails and then filed them away without really jumping into the activities and assignments outlined in each e-mail.
This summer as I dived into fostering more enduring creative habits (thanks in large part to the inspiring help of Crystal Moody’s Year of Creative Habits!), I decided to finally revisit the program that I had paid a whopping $15 for. The results have been surprising.
The course is made up of weekly tasks. The goal is simple: establish habits and routines that help to stir up the juicy flow of creativity. Biehle’s course outlines everything from having a free writing practice to cultivating a creativity collection to keep your moments of inspiration and to help you find inspiration when it seems to have gone missing. The ultimate benefit of the course for me was the mixture of actually creating things with prompts for introspective reflection. What ended up happening is I would write something and then reflect on how that project made me feel. This extra step illuminated a lot of the fears and anxieties that had been holding me back from writing. Ultimately, through the reflections and continued assignments, I walked away feeling like I had cultivated long-term practices that have me feeling more capable to write more frequently with better quality.
If you find yourself feeling stuck creatively, I highly recommend this course as a way to help get you out of your rut (after of course identifying what is causing said rut). You ultimately have the keys to tackle any creative project you desire, you sometimes just need to be reminded how to use those keys!
Now that my creative juices are flowing I’m organizing and utilizing my creativity collection to be more efficient with my writing. At the end of the course, I set the following goals for myself. I know that posting them on here will help keep me more accountable so here you go:
- Free writing daily. I set the modest goal of a minimum of fifteen minutes of free writing. This fits the best into my schedule and will help jump start creativity in my morning routine.
- Review and outline ideas in my creativity collection. I use Evernote to maintain notebooks of inspiration for both my creative writing and my blog. These notebooks can easily get jam packed with stuff that goes forgotten. I need to make sure to do at least a monthly review of the items and turn that inspiration into content!
- Complete pieces of work ESPECIALLY when I don’t feel like it. I’m going to work on crafting a review system of my creativity collection that moves pieces of inspiration from simple ideas into outlined ideas into drafts into finished pieces for some form of publication. This process MUST include setting deadlines so that I take finishing work more seriously.
- Take a photo everyday. The August break has shown me the benefits of challenging myself to see the everyday beauty and inspiration around me through the lens of my iPhone. As I veer into photography even more I hope to eventually get a real camera but for now the iPhone is serving me just fine.
- Blog at least five days a week. This will help keep me on track with the publication portion of my goals. Creating is great but I need to take that leap of getting my work out there to readers!
- Write a mission statement for the blog. I am also jumping into Melanie Biehle’s Blog with Purpose workbook. I’m sure I’ll be posting insights and successful inspirations from that soon!
- Successfully complete NaNoWriMo. I think I’ve unofficially failed at NaNoWriMo for four or five years. I’m ready for a success story! With all of these creative juices flowing, how can I NOT finish a novel in the month of November?
- Journal daily. One of the biggest walk aways from this course was the importance of introspective reflection. A huge layer of meaningful creativity comes from being in touch with myself. Luckily I’ve signed up for Susannah Conway’s Journal Your Life e-course to help me get more intimate with my journaling experiences.
- Continue education: sign up for more writing (and creativity) related classes and workshops. Any suggestions on this front?
- And last but not least: collaborate! I’m still in search of a mentor to guide me and I’ve actually started reaching out to a few people. But I’m not just looking for a mentor. I know all about the importance of collaboration in any process and would love to open myself to more collaborations in all creative spheres. If you have any ideas about us possibly collaborating in some way please leave a comment or shoot me an e-mail!
Do any of my creative goals resonate with you? How do you get yourself out of a rut (creatively or otherwise)? Are there any habit building tips you’d like to share? Any success stories? I’m all ears!