Rachel

Commitment

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This photograph is the furthest thing from my daily yoga practice, but I love it for its imaginary quality. Yoga magazines and articles are full of unrealistic photographs. Mountain yoga. Seaside yoga. Breathtaking sunsets. Solitude. Quiet. The landscape of dreams. The photographs have value if they inspire us. Motivate us. Or maybe just make us feel calm. We can imagine that if we were sitting in that spot, we’d feel immense tranquility. Maybe we would and maybe we wouldn’t.

I don’t have a particular desire to be somewhere I’m not—to be wherever that woman is (Utah?). More and more I’m a believer in finding zen wherever you are. “The only zen you can find on the tops of mountains is the zen you bring there,” says Robert M. Pirsig.

My ideal daily yoga practice would be to light a candle, play quiet music, have a view of the sun rising and zero interruptions. When I am rigid, and only proceed with the right conditions (not outrageously beautiful “right” like in the photo above, but even just daily life “right”), I go many days with no yoga at all. By accepting that most days I will be interrupted, I won’t be able to get the music on or light a candle because someone’s on the computer or I can’t find the matches or it’s too early for music or whatever, I am able to do two sun salutations every day. It’s so little, but day after day it gains momentum. There is great stability in choosing how your day will begin.

 

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Chakras · Kajal · writing

Lofty Aspirations

Every week I commit to hammering out a few blog posts so I have them ready to go on my days, Tuesday and Thursday. Between errands, time sensitive to dos, follow-ups, and other things, my lofty aspirations of writing a blog come crashing down. It’s the one unchecked item on my list, circled, underlined, and starred multiple times over, but never fully complete.

Laundry – done; make soup – done; pay bills – done; yoga class – done; blog – blank.

How do I follow through and bring this lofty aspiration into reality. It takes a degree of self-discipline. Is it better time management? Am I putting of writing my blog? We are reaching a midpoint. The freshness and newness of it was good. Maintaining the commitment of writing two times a week was never easy, but I was committed and more importantly I didn’t want to let Rachel or myself down. Plus, I was really proud to be out there, opening myself up, which isn’t me at all. Work overwhelmed me in January causing me to run out of steam.

And now I’ve been aiming to write once a week. It’s a lot like doing yoga or going to the gym – a muscle you have to exercise. So, where is my motivation, my discipline? At work, we do a job because we’re responsible for it. I do yoga – honestly – I thought about this one – because I pay a monthly fee to the studio and want my money’s worth. It’s the best way to keep me accountable; otherwise I find an excuse or sit at my desk and do more work. Same thing with going to physical therapy.

After working out or going to yoga, I always feel 100% better. When writing a blog post. I do feel a sense of satisfaction, especially when I read it over and think, “Hey, this is decent.”

So, feeling good is an outcome and I do enjoy the process. That’s the end and the middle. It’s the start and step before I start that’s really hard for me. Perhaps my goal is too high. Instead, I will aim to write one blog over the weekend and start with baby steps. Let’s see what happens…

-Kajal

Rachel

Monday

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I remember the relief I used to feel Monday mornings heading out to to school when I was a teenager. All weekend I felt the burden of the mountains of work ahead of me. Then much of Sunday was spent fretting about the outrageous amount and trying to climb through it. (Lots of energy wasted dreading/fretting). Monday mornings, my backpack full to bursting, I felt light.

I may not have finished in my assignment book, but there was nothing more I could do. The reading, the studying, the problem sets, the projects—they were in my bag or in my head or they were not. I felt free. I didn’t mind taking tests: adrenaline can get you through a short, focused burst of concentration, similar to writing on a deadline. I liked most of the subjects. I enjoyed the reading. I’ve always loved writing. Here’s what bothered me:

A) The idea of all the work—in the abstract, it all feels so overwhelming [“journey of a thousand step”s before you’ve taken the first step]

B) The prospect of finishing with enough time to re-do, revise, polish & perfect

Recent research says that looking forward to vacation is often more pleasurable that the vacation itself. The flip side seems equally true: dreading something we have to do is often more aversive than the task itself. That seems true of exercise, dealing with the DMV, writing an article. The best response to A above would seem to be: start your work immediately because putting it off only causes more anxiety. But, here is where B comes in.

If I finished with enough time to re-do, revise, polish & perfect, then what I turned in was the best possible work I could do. I didn’t want to be judged for the best possible work I could do. I wanted to be judged for the best I could do in a limited time frame. The limited time frame lets you off the hook.

I hardly got a chance to practice that piano piece

I wrote that draft in an hour last night

I didn’t even finish the reading before the exam

I dreaded the work ahead, but felt a compulsion to put it off long enough that I didn’t experience the anxiety of being judged for the best I could do.

This comes down to a lack of faith, a lack of confidence.

I have connected this somewhat self-defeating behavior to postponing decisions in my adult life and to my generally frantic behavior. If I put off decisions, make them impulsively, then obviously they can’t be the best possible decisions I’m capable of making. They are ones I made in imperfect conditions. If my purse is a mess, my clothes mismatched, if I’m speaking quickly, rushing, out of breath, then any “mistakes” I make can be at least partly attributed to the fact that I’m clearly doing more than reasonable. Defense mechanism.

It’s taken me years—switch that to present tense—it is taking me years to change my position.

Every Monday morning feels like a new chance to work on changing my habits. Little by little, the only way anything worthwhile ever gets done.

 

—Rachel

 

Flow · Kajal

Light the Spark

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Yoga is like a bellows, every asana breathes breath into the body.

Work, traffic, cold weather all grind us down into dust causing that inner light to flicker and fade. One of the things I love about yoga is how each breath you take rekindles your inner light. Flowing through a simple set of sun salutations reenergizes every cell in the body. Every inhale is followed by an exhale, and the cycle goes on slowly igniting that inner spark.

I’m sure there is a science behind it, but the effect is magical. Finding the right words to describe it is difficult because none seem to do the experience justice making it a great, albeit challenging, writing exercise for this blog.

-Kajal

 

 

 

Joy · Kajal · Soul

I’m O.K., you’re O.K.

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Lately, when I’m feeling anxious, I check in with my heart. Sounds super-cheesy. I literally focus in on my heart and send my thoughts and energy there to kickstart that good feeling. You know the one I’m talking about. It’s the one you get when you get a diamond tiara, win a million dollars or get a promotion. LOL. The only one of those three things I’ve ever actually received is the last one, the promotion, which is indeed a wonderful feeling. Being recognized for your hard work and increasing your earning power is fabulous. But a promotion doesn’t happen every day. The problem with all of these things, other then being highly unlikely and rare is they are external, fleeting triggers of joy. They don’t come from within.

The best place to start and capture that feeling is from within. Kickstarting your joy with good, positive, loving thoughts and feelings puts the right energy in your heart. And that feeling is priceless. It let’s you know, “I’m ok, and because I’m ok, you’re ok, everything’s ok.”

-Kajal

Rachel

Building a Platform (for what?)

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In the writing world, I feel this constant pressure to get to one place first, and then from that perch, I’ll be able to get somewhere else (i.e., the place I really want to be). I think a lot of this has to do with the word “platform.” Before you can expect an agent or publisher to be interested in your submission, you need to build a platform. To build a platform, you have to do something that appeals to many people. Often something that fits neatly in that category—the category: appeals to many people—has to be simple, readily identifiable, marketable, visually-interesting, formulaic, predictable. In other words, not new. Something that lends itself to a 20-second elevator pitch.

Maybe advice for busy new moms. Maybe 10 ways to slow down. Maybe gardening tips. Maybe a nice before/after picture of a newly-simplified living space. Maybe something funny the kids did. A beautiful latte with a heart in the foam. These are a few possibilities. There are many more. And they can have value, potentially. Even if it’s just a picture of the cat in the sun that makes someone smile, someone who has seen (and taken) a million pictures of cats in the sun.

And you could accept that broad category, whichever one draws you the most. You could say, I will start by curating or recording or musing about something with mass appeal. And even then, who knows how many followers you will attract? Maybe you’ll take in lots of tips about “successful” blogging and boosting your online presence, and you’ll apply them well and have some natural talent for publicity and self-promotion and you’ll get somewhere.

And then maybe you’ll have a platform. Enough followers, enough likes, enough friends, enough fans, enough, enough, enough! so that the guardian of some cultural access point whose approval you’re seeking (the editor or agent) will finally approve. At last you have enough—enough people who will pay money for something they will help you sell.

This platform pressure drains me.

Isn’t it highly possibly that you could invent yourself, reinvent yourself,  be that person that people want to follow, that person with a platform, that you could climb up high and see far and wide, then be granted the opportunity to speak to the crowd through some establishment channel like book publishing, and quite possibility the speech you’d want to give, or book you’d want to write would have nothing to do with that persona at all? That was the persona you used to claw your way to that platform. Do you jettison it? Would you be allowed to? Could you throw off your pink wig, trade your platform heels for running shoes?

 

 

Rachel

“…Very well, then I contradict myself…”

 

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How lucky this feels to me today to have a writing/yoga blog, about which I’d so often dreamed for past year. To have a space to enter. Writing. Yoga. Fitness. To see the posts from Kajal. Some really make me laugh! To know that Sharyn is now teaching Yoga at Bowery Yoga (and somehow credits her arrival there to me, for connecting her with our neighborhood garden for our Mindfulness in the Garden workshop). The Mindful Gardener is reprinting. I gave a copy to my aunt this past weekend. She is about to move from her big, beautiful house on the beach where we just realized this weekend as I said goodbye that we should have hosted a women’s wellness retreat to a small condo near the woods in the next town over. In her “new life” she is excited to start her own little garden. She flipped through the pages of the journal to the question about who taught you to garden. It was her mother Eleanor (my grandmother), she said, proceeding to tell me about the glorious roses out front of her childhood home.

Today I said I will come here, that is, pull up this WordPress page, and give it my full attention.

We try to fight distraction. We’ve rid ourselves of multi-tasking. But instead of focusing on what I don’t want to do (get distracted, wander to another page, another task, an article, a chore, an email) I am telling myself that instead I should focus on the act of attention, its potential for power, grace, and joy. Here is Marjoleine de Vos:

“Nothing is better than fully opening up to what you are doing, whether it’s gardening, reading, listening, or bird-watching. Instead of doing a little of many things at the same time, doing them one at a time is more efficient and more enjoyable.”

When I started this project with Kajal, my partner Alex posted on Facebook a link to the blog with the description that it was “not very rock & roll” of me. It is not. It is a different aspect and I sometimes feel like a bit of an imposter in this yoga world. I wonder if I have the “right” to write about mindfulness. If I am allowed to participate in a discussion about a realm that is not only new to me but also at odds, possibly, with other realms, other roles. I wonder what is at the root of that fear. Why one can’t write rock songs and also write about attempts at meditation. The fear extends to other areas. At Fordham in my Master’s program I often felt on the margins because I was a mother. I felt discredited because, along with my nonprofit work, I write books for a living that are mainly just for fun (commercial, gift books, often silly, often illustrated, not serious, the furthers thing from scholarly). Part of me thinks that I can’t help but think in terms of a personal brand, given that our social media feeds, more than anything, have seemingly come to define us in our larger networks. And knowing that my “brand”—if I have one, as a freelancer, I partly rely on having one—is rather incoherent gives me pause. Genre-bending, disobedient.

Is writing about yoga, practicing yoga with the mind of a writer, a departure from who I’ve been? Will it take me further away from something essential? Or help me return? I don’t have answers, but I have felt something stirring and I’ve started to listen to recordings from my band Dimestore Scenario. I posted a few here. Part of me wants to write all new material. A new EP, a new album, maybe a compilation. And part of me thinks, no. You need to exercise restraint. Go back and finish something you started. Remember Bruce Lee, practicing the same kick, 10,000 times.