Thursday, March 25, 2010

These are my principles (If you don't like them, I have others)

I love civil discourse. Dig a frank dialogue. Heart a heated discussion. I am all over a charged debate when both sides have something to say and the verbal skills to do it intelligently. I appreciate having my assumptions challenged and being asked to clarify my statements. I may sputter a bit in the process, get my feelings hurt a little, but--ultimately--it makes me that much more secure in my convictions...or forces me to change my mind.

I'm pretty sure I'm an endangered species.

Never mind the nonsense in the US Congress or on reality TV. I'm talking about here in YogaBlogLand. I am so appreciative of my fellow yogis who are willing to go out on a limb and have an opinion and back it up (it's all yoga, baby; Yogaspy; Linda's Yoga Journey; Yoga for Cynics, Yoga Dork; the writers at elephant journal; everyone's favorite thinker Bob Weisenberg). Not only do they take a stand, but they are willing to engage all comers in the discussion.

What I don't heart (dislike button), is the crowd who hides behind the Anonymous title or accuses people of missing the joke (lame--work on your ironic tone, or show me what I missed) or, worst in my mind, advises more yoga so the writer in question will calm down. Generalizations, name-calling, unsubstantiated claims should be beneath us.

I'm not going to link to any of this (also lame-- but I don't want to seem like I'm flaming any one), but look around at this week's postings and you'll find all of it.

C'mon everyone! We're writers and readers, that's why we're here. We think. It's cool to think. If I don't agree with you, tell me why I should. If you think I'm misguided, cite me a source, chapter and verse. Prove your case. I'm a big girl, I can take it.

There are some really compelling ideas floating around...some lovely, challenging interpretations of this practice we so love. Let's talk about it. Who knows, we might learn something in the process.

But don't leave in a huff. (If that's too soon, you can leave in a minute and a huff).

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Power Within...or Settling for Store-Bought Eggs

Last Thursday morning, son #2 was bouncing around the living room, relishing the attention of both parents after his big brother left for kindergarten. He announced, "I a Alligator!" and threw himself face first between the armchair and the ottoman, wrenching both shoulders and smacking his chin on the floor. He let a mighty, non-reptilian wail and ran to me, gathering his pacifier and security blanket on the way.

"Wow," said my husband, "Getting out all the big guns."

That, my friends, is true power. Being able to soothe and comfort another living being (with a little help from laytex and polarfleece), just using your own maternal energy. Job #1 for me, these days, is chasing around two boys and, apparently, I'm doing alright.

I'm still thinking about the Goddess thing. Jenn's comment coupled with an NYT Sunday Magazine article, "The Femivore's Dilemma," a few weeks ago about stay-at-home moms who raise chickens
, and the fantastic discussion last week made me wonder why can't empowerment come from within.

Why are we (yes--first person--I'm as guilty of this as the next mother hen) seduced with the idea of being super-woman, invincible, divine? Guys are sold the "happiness thru toys" message, while women are targeted with the "happiness thru self-improvement" meme. By choosing language such as goddess, we put the bar so high we are constantly falling short, berating ourselves for not working hard enough, not changing enough lives, not having pretty enough hair. Not tending a chicken coop and educating the children. Yeah, I know goddess is just a word, but words are very powerful things and we should be able to come up with something as compelling but more reasonable.

Why can't we revel in the powers we do
have: to teach, to construct, to write, to create, to nurture, etc etc. Celebrate the already existing and build on that, rather than strive for something with high-disappointment potential. I'm not saying we shouldn't have ambition or challenge ourselves, but I just don't understand the need for such impossible standards.

Again--this rant is directed at me as much as anyone else. That's why Jenn's comment was so sweet and common-sense, and why the chicken article bugged me--take pride in what you do do, instead of cooking up some additional tasks that just wear you out and down. You are still a valuable individual, even if you have a short to-do list (and keeping that list short requires serious strength!).

So, yeah, ix-nay on the oddess-gay. I'm open to suggestions for better terms, but I'm ready to retire this one. Luckily I have a source for local eggs...cluck, cluck.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Goddess Conundrum...

There's a new blog in town--great title (Namaste, Bitches), great pic (take that, yogis who fret about eating meat and drinking coffee), and a saucy tone. I look forward to hearing about Holly's "recovery" and teaching yoga in the Philly ghetto. Cheesesteak and Pretzel trucks! Brotherly Love!

Her post, "Dating a Yoga Goddess; Damsels, Dharma, and Distress" got a lot of attention, last week. Funny, sassy, a bit "I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar," but an entertaining read and it resonated a lot with people, judging by the comments. It got me to thinking (about her terminology, not
her content)...

I just don't like the term "Goddess" to describe female human beings. It always seems sort of self-congratulatory and childish at the same time; an attempt at empowerment that ends up sounding needy (really, I'm divine!). You never hear men using God to describe themselves, unless they are absolute narcissists. Or jerks. Why is it so popular with women, these days...(and almost always used in the same breath as "day spa")?

I clump it with the other over-used, power-fem term: Diva. Both of these suggest the woman in question is strong, attractive, the center-of-attention, and a complete pain-in-the-ass. They seem like excuses for bad behavior (and you know how I feel about that). Reality TV-esque.

Technically, I don't think it's so great to be a goddess, anyway. Your children get kidnapped by underworld gods, your husband sleeps around with humans, you compete in beauty contests that start wars, your followers get cut down in battle. Not a very happy lot. Sure, there's power, but it seems like there's a lot of grief involved, too. I guess that's why they need frequent massages and manicures.

O Divine Readers, maybe you know something this mere mortal does not.
Am I misreading this trend? Too old to get it? Taking the whole thing too seriously?

Pray tell.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Signs point to Yes...

I do love fortune cookies. Not so much the paper inside as the wafer, but I still want to find the information useful. A small bagful costs 79 cents at the store, so I keep them around for times when I need a small sweet and some advice.

While I would like to believe the fortune I got last week, "your future plans will succeed," at the same time, Number-One son got "your strength is in your sophistication"--a 'fortune' he immediately disproved as he ran off to show it to his dad, burping in his little brother's face on the way. This pairing of statements--revealed in the selection of baked goods--seems to suggest randomness, rather than an ability to predict.

However, it is human nature to want to find patterns, to try to discover order from the chaos of nature. Whether it's organizing the stars, tossing bones, looking at goose guts or cracking open cookies, we want a hint at what's to come based on Chance or finding a relationship between seemingly unrelated items. Last week, two ladies in the locker room were fretting about the recent earthquakes and the economy. "It makes you wonder," they said. A Sign from the Gods. Comfort against the Unknown.

(The geologist husband later sniffed, "Earthquakes happen all the time.")

I guess that's where aparigraha comes in. No clinging. We can't know what is going to happen next, so we can't worry about it; no point in wasting energy over things we can't control...especially things that haven't happened yet. Plans could succeed or they could completely fail, but nothing is goi
ng to reveal that except time. It's fun to guess at what will happen next, but, instead, we ought to appreciate the current moment.

I'll try. I'm very bad at staying in the present, rather than pondering the future. We'll see how that plan goes. Magic Eight Ball sez...

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Tri-ing yoga

Whew. I am recuperating from a sprint triathlon (swim 1/4 mile, bike 5 miles, run 3 miles) I competed in on Sunday. The decision to train for it was an odd one for me; I tend to avoid really competitive situations that involve tasks I'm not very good at. But I thought the challenge of racing with seasoned athletes would be a good one, the discipline of training a good habit to develop, and I was really interested to see how my yoga practice would contribute to the process.

Obviously the increased flexibility was an aid to recovery, and stretching was key after hard workouts, but it was the mental rigor of yoga that was most useful. Like I said, I'm very competitive--too competitive--and I know that trying to do something new with people who are better than me is very difficult. I had to summon all my powers of concentration to stay focused on my own lane and pace and not get too worked up about who was passing me. Taming that pesky ego while in last place, ug.

Running is the hardest. I plod along gracelessly--pound, pound, pound--and envy those that seem to bound by, light on their feet and sleek as gazelles. So not only did I have to ignore those fleet-of-feet, but I also had to drown out the voices in my head encouraging me to just stop because it's too hard. I repeated to myself, over and over, the instructions I always give my students: just focus on your own body, breath into any tension, relax on the exhale, keep your mind clear and just allow the experience to unfold. A lot easier to tell than do.

But, still, it all helped. I think the discipline you build as you practice comes into play any time you are facing a challenging situation--whether it's one you choose or one that's thrust upon you. It's also why I think asana is key to learning how to focus and quiet negative voices, but it's only a tool for developing mental stamina, rather than the whole point.

How do you learn to clear the mind? I don't know. I'm still thinking about that. Maybe it just sneaks up you while you focus on asana; maybe you have to take time to practice meditation and pranayama; maybe you need to find yourself in a rough spot before you know you can do it (I'd definitely put labor and delivery of my two sons in that category). I don't really remember before and and after yoga, so maybe it's a long, slow process of accumulated experience.

Anyway, as I shop for my next race--Madison Quarter Marathon?--I'm mulling all of this. It's nice that the challenge I'm working on is one of my choosing (and you get a tee shirt when you finish), but I'd like to think I could pull these mental yoga skills out whenever I needed them. However, I'm not sure how I'd advise anyone to develop their own...thoughts?