I’m the first to admit I’m not very good at yoga. I’m still so stiff and sometimes I get a head rush from being in downward dog a little too long. I don’t hold poses for nearly as long as I should. The longest session I’ve ever done at home is 20 minutes. I’m sporadic at best with practice.
Even with all downsides in my own inconsistent practice, I have experienced far more benefits.
When I practice yoga, I’m all in. I don’t think about anything else. I concentrate on the poses. It takes on a very meditative state. This then reminds me that even though I don’t think I do very well with meditation because my mind wanders a lot during guided sessions, I’m doing better than I think. I’m specifically taking what I learn and applying it to something else.
And since I’m all in, I feel like I’m a better listener and I’m completely present with others. Recently a colleague told me that I’m a good listener. She said I listen with my whole body and make the other person feel like they have really been heard. Yoga has been instrumental in making that happen.
I have also discovered through yoga I’m so much more balanced. I do a five minute basic yoga and stretching session every single morning right after my shower. It has become a habit as I don’t even think about it. It’s just what I do as a part of my morning routine: shower, lotion, and yoga in that order.
Because I feel more balanced, I’m more confident in doing simple poses at the end of my workout at the gym. It doesn’t matter to me how I look to others. It matters how I look to me and how it makes me feel on the inside. I might look like a stiff chicken in reality, but in my mind I’m an elegant swan.
Yoga has been instrumental in me becoming an attentive listener, being more present, having better balance, and increasing my confidence.
I would say yoga is a game changer.
I had no skin in the game. I’m not a fan of either Notre Dame or Navy. I don’t know a lot about them other than their records and that they have played against each other for 91 consecutive years.
There’s history, and there’s a genuine respect between them.
How do I know this?
I watched what happened when the game was over.
After the game concluded and the teams shook hands, both teams headed to one corner of the stadium. The Navy players stood in front as the Navy band, midshipmen, and players sang the Navy fight song. The Notre Dame football players and coaches stood respectfully behind them.
Then they headed to the opposite corner where Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly stood flanked arm-in-arm with his senior football players while the rest of the players were arm-in-arm behind them, and they sang the Notre Dame fight song. The Navy football players and coaches stood behind them.
It seriously had all the feels.
As the commentators said, there’s a lot wrong in our world, but today showed the good. It showed the respect, the tradition, and the love. Not just for the game but for each other. It was a lesson in humanity and gratitude.
I realize that last sentence might sound like a bit of a reach because it was a football game, but if you saw it you know what I’m talking about. It was something to behold as well as something to hold onto.
Think about something that seems mundane to others, but gives you all the feels. A memory. An experience. An item. When it comes to mind, you feel a sense of warmth and a slight smile comes to your lips. It’s something to hold onto.
Just like a football game.
**This article first appeared in The Ascent on Medium.com.
I've already noticed changes three weeks into my year of black and white photos, and it goes beyond the photos themselves. They seem to be acting as symbols for facets of life itself.
I'm becoming more visually aware.
I look for opportunities that are from a different angle or there might be something unique about them. The picture I'm featuring this week doesn't have anything unique about it on the surface. I'm taking notes at a staff meeting.
Then I noticed the sunlight streaming through the window behind me and how it highlighted my water bottle (featured in Week #1). If I had set it a few inches to the left or right, it would have been just out of reach of the sun's rays. But as it stood, the point of visual contact was mesmerizing to me and so I took the photo. (Please don't ask me what was going on in the meeting at that moment, oops.)
I'm noticing more photo opportunities I would have previously ignored. Routine views I see everyday are beginning to take on more meaning. The insignificant is becoming significant. I'm beginning to see it in other areas of my life as well. The mundane is starting to take on more meaning.
Items pop out that surprise me.
Sure the contrast of the pen to the notebook would have been noticeable in a color photo. The black and white makes it pop more substantially though. It's the first item I notice after the sunlight streaming in. Because of it, my attention gets drawn to the writing in the notebook itself.
I'm letting myself be more surprised by life itself. I'm more present in the small moments. It's in the minutiae that something happens, and I wouldn't have given them a second thought previously.
The background is no longer just the background.
If this was a color photo, I would have paid no attention to what was going on behind the items in the foreground. This has been the most profound part of this experiment so far. I see the background more often now. I see the details, right down to the electrical outlets beneath the screen.
I'm trying to do a better job of this in my life. What I see as background is significant to someone else, and I'm tuning in instead of dismissing it or only being partially there. I'm making it a priority to stay in that specific moment of time. While it doesn't always happen, I'm a work in progress.
But I am making progress.
Sunday night is a great night to reflect upon all that is good in our world. Here's my list:
1. I'm so thankful for all the men and women who have sacrificed and have served our country proudly. Not just on Veterans' Day but every day.
2. I hit 84 straight days of guided meditation using the Calm app. I can tell a difference.
3. My daughter and son-in-law celebrated their one year anniversary today.
4. Going to a luncheon at church gave us the opportunity to get to know our new pastor and her husband better.
5. Good health is something never to take for granted.
6. Singing and dancing in our house just reassures my husband and me why we are still so right for each other after 28 years of marriage.
7. Being more observant as a result of my year of black and white photos has been enlightening.
8. My mom and stepdad sent a selfie to me from the Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant concert last night (the concert was a combined birthday present for them). It was a gift to me to get that picture from them smiling from ear to ear.
9. The Geico sloth commercial makes me laugh every single time.
10. I don't mind that people are putting up their holiday decorations as long as that festive spirit lasts all year long.
Everyday Life Uncluttered: #Week 2 - Why I Don't Make Everyday Count, but I'm Committed To Doing Better
Sometimes I make part of the day count. I get complacent and lazy and I let the day get completely away from me, but I have really good intentions.
Those intentions don't control the day though. I do, but man, it's hard work. Making everyday count is a commitment, and I am on the struggle bus more often than not.
I get lost in social media. I start reading articles instead of getting my butt in the chair to write. I watch one episode of The Office on Netflix, which inevitably turns into two or three. What was I supposed to be doing? Oh yeah, laundry, or the dishes, or some other chore I have now put off until tomorrow again.
So, how do I go about doing a better job of making everyday count from beginning to end?
It starts with a schedule. Blocking out the entire day from beginning to end. Sure, things are going to come up or I might get pulled away to something I can't control. However, when the day is scheduled from the time I get up to the time I go to bed, I have a fighting chance.
The next step though is the hardest. It's following said schedule. So far today, I'm kicking its ass and it feels good. No, it feels freaking fantastic! And here's why:
1. Last night I gave myself time to plan out the day.
2. I wrote in the appointments I had scheduled, and then I wrote down how I was going to fill in the time between the scheduled activities.
3. I accounted for every minute. I included when I would check email, eat lunch, and driving time to my chiropractor.
4. Every minute has been accounted for until I go to bed tonight.
5. My planner stayed open by my side all day long. I wrote in it when I had to make a schedule change or if I had something come up I needed to do that I had forgotten.
6. After dinner, I was tempted to watch Netflix, but then I remembered to look at my schedule to see what I had planned next.
And writing was my next scheduled block of time, so here I am.
Has today been easy since I had a plan in place?
I would love to say yes, but that's such a lie.
There were times I wanted to check email like I usually do throughout the day. I could have skipped an optional meeting with a student, but since I had it in my planner I honored the commitment. While the chunk of time I had for lesson planning for classroom counseling lessons didn't quite happen, I was doing it to get ahead and I had forgotten a couple of items I needed to get done sooner. So, I cut myself a break and did them.
Even though it was a challenge, I really felt like my focus was laser-like today. I didn't let myself get complacent. I didn't allow myself to be lazy. I made today count, but I need to make it a habit. Discipline and willpower only last so long before we run out of them, but habits are forever.
I can do better. I will do better.
I'm a lover of life, an eternal optimist, and I have an intense desire to add value through simple living and positive vibes.