I have a confession: last night I skipped a networking event so I could “treat” myself to an episode of the new show by Netflix, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. It was my second episode. I watched the first one on Monday night to reward myself for a lot of work accomplished that day.
Marie Kondo has the most joyful and optimistic spirit. I love her way of greeting the house in the beginning and taking a moment to thank the home for the protection it has provided to the family. She also asks for cooperation with the project ahead. Truly, her way of approaching it makes the process of clearing seem sacred, rather than a chore.
One thing that bothers me about these projects is that the women always seem to feel excessive amounts of guilt over the mess. The men very seldom feel guilt, though they often seem to feel frustrated with the women over not being able to keep things clean.
My mixed reaction is probably due to my feminist complaint regarding women as the presumed keepers of the home, along with my desire to have vastly less STUFF. I love that feeling of open space that comes with removing clutter. And of course I also love my bookshelves full of precious gems.
It does seem that the couples who start with skepticism eventually get to a place of actually enjoying the process of de-cluttering. By the end of the first two episodes, there were drastic transformations, and also very happy couples much more content with their relationships as well as their space. They appear joyous and radiant after the transformation.
This is re-igniting my desire to continue with my own de-clutter process. Now that I work from home for much of the week, when I am not careful my things can pile up quickly. Putting it all away at the end of the day so I can relax is an important discipline I tried to start about a year ago. Perhaps now it is even more relevant to my quality of life since there is less of a boundary between work and home life.
**This is an edited post from January of 2017, after my recovery from an appendectomy. I enjoyed re-reading it as I was reflecting on the past year. The advice still applies.**
I just got the all-clear from the surgeon post appendectomy to return to yoga. She told me I need to be mindful not to overdo it, of course, but that I was healing quickly and should be fine now. It was the best news I got all week!
Thursday night I went back to yin yoga class. It felt awesome. I was mindful of a few poses where I did not fully extend, knowing that I will slowly work my way back to where I was. After a month away from this, it is wise to go slow, and take breaks.
Most yoga teachers understand this, but a few of them out there still “push” sometimes. If you ever consider a class, I recommend one where the teacher tells you that you can always take breaks or make modifications. Feel free to sit in child’s pose, or if your knees are too strained by that, just lay in savasana (corpse pose) if that is needed. Really!
So many people push themselves, perhaps at the goading of a teacher, “come on, I know you are strong enough to hold this pose longer…” Um, no. I call that kind of teaching “yogaerobics” or perhaps the teacher is new to the practice of yoga.
Best advice: listen to your own body. Yes, it’s true that you will become stronger if you practice something like hatha or vinyasa regularly. But it is also that every body is different, and that you must respect your limits. That is wisdom.
It is also true that every DAY your body is different. Some days you may have more energy and other days maybe you did not sleep as well the night before, and you are more tired. It does not matter. The best practice is the one where you did what was right for that day, for each moment of your practice.
The best teacher is the one that encourages you to listen to your body and pace yourself. Teachers are guides, not the authorities. Your own body is the ultimate authority on what is right for you. When you learn that, everything else falls into place. Namaste!
It is my Dad’s birthday today and so in his honor, I am posting an edited version of last year’s tribute to him.
My Dad’s choice of vocation as a bilingual teacher fundamentally shaped the way I look at the world. His countless presentations to school boards on language learning and the value of bilingual versus ESL-type programs shaped my thinking about social justice and education. He and Mom did highly influential work together to defend and protect educational opportunities for children of (originally) migrant workers in our small town.
Dad was called to serve these children and their parents, who needed a strong advocate for their education. He worked with them to help ensure they could get the best education possible. He believed in their potential and was ready to nurture it every step of the way, building a strong base of skills and also self-confidence. His work as an elementary level teacher touched so many young children’s lives in a powerful and profound way.
We used to go to the classroom late at night, my Mom and Dad and my sister, to put up bulletin boards at the beginning of each new month. My sister also remembers how “cool” it was for Dad to have a key to the school, and he and Mom could work there after hours, when it was easier to get work done uninterrupted. Having special access to the school meant that we could run down the hallways while nobody was there! So much fun. We could never get away with that during a school day.
I remember Dad teaching me to read by the time I was 4 years old. That made my kindergarten experience boring, since I was amazed we had to go back through all the letter books. Really?!? Can nobody else read yet? I got to skip my reading classes in favor of going to the bilingual classroom several hours a day. This saved me from the torture of repeating what I had already mastered.
Dad nurtured that spark of learning within me, and that has been a constant throughout my life. I learn quickly, and greedily, reading books as fast as I can. Of course, having a bit of challenge with attention, I sometimes read a book twice in order to fully absorb it.
Both Mom and Dad believed in reading to us when we were young, and this may be one reason I still love to read. I also enjoy audio books because it is a sweet memory to have someone read to me. For sure, my Grandmother had great influence as well. She was an avid reader and consummate learner.
Dad was amazingly patient with classrooms full of children. They behaved well for him. He almost never sick days but when he did, the substitutes were always amazed by his class. He created partnerships with parents and got to know them well throughout the year.
Hispanic parents typically do not tolerate misbehavior by their children in school. One call from “el Maestro” was enough to get a student to realize they could not misbehave in his classroom without having consequences happen at home. Their culture still has high respect for teachers. Sometimes Dad brought in psychologists as guest speakers to talk with the parents about how to help their kids at home, and was devoted to helping those young minds open and bloom.
Dad faced racism in his experience as an educated Mexican living in a small town, a very “white” town. The parents of his students respected him a great deal, but some of the teachers he worked with did not. Indeed some of the administrators did not, but he did have good principals. One particular school superintendent took special interest in his classes. This leader, noticing how respectful and well-behaved my Dad’s classes were, made sure that the direction from the top was to expand the bilingual program, not to cut back, as some school boards had tried to do.
One of the greatest lessons I learned from my Dad (and Mom taught me this as well) was that you should treat everyone with respect. A person’s “station” in life does not matter. Whether they are a teacher, a principal, a janitor or a cook, you must treat each person with dignity and respect. This is fundamental to the way I interact with the world, and is something I strive to emulate as well.
I am truly grateful to my Dad, and for all the lessons I learned through the way he and my mother live their lives. Teaching is a vocation, not just a job. I like to say I come from a family of teachers, and it is true, multiple generations. I am immensely proud of that.
I recently wrote an article for a client on “meditation 101”. It was fun to write, given my study of the topic and my practice for the past 2.5+ years. It was posted at the client website, sadly without a byline. But it is all good practice and part of my writing portfolio, so to speak.
I wanted to reflect on a principle that I think is a misconception about meditation, at least in my experience. People often assume that you must do something to “transcend” the body, when in reality the goal for me is to get grounded in the body. I seek to come back to my body not to transcend or escape it in any way.
Most of my days are spent “in my head” and outside my body. I recently realized that my body contains a tremendous amount of wisdom and intuition that my over-active brain conveniently “skips” much of the time. When I come back to my home, the body itself, I access what my soul is trying to tell me. It is through understanding the subtle emotional language of the body that our truths can be revealed to us.
A lot of the men and the male teachers of meditation that have instructed me have encouraged us to “transcend” the body, and go to some ethereal destination. Perhaps this works for them, and I will not disparage their efforts.
We are built with this mammalian architecture that is incredibly subtle and wise. We ignore it at our peril. Women have been “escaping” and transcending their bodies for millennia due to patriarchy, cultural norms and many other reasons. It is time we stopped taking that advice, and stepped into full ownership and joy in our bodies. That’s where the magic happens.
On Thursday I finished up a short contract for a writing client that had found me through Upwork. The topic had challenged me. I had needed to do a quick turnaround literature search, read and understand concepts in a field that was unfamiliar, and produce some writing that made sense of a general audience without a medical background.
About half way into the project, I had some doubts. The material was dense and technical, a reminder of my biochemistry days in college. I remembered that brain-twisting experience of reading through research papers that were way over my head, trying to interpret them. It felt like a foreign language in a way, trying to understand complex mechanisms or experimental methodology that was unfamiliar.
But I remembered that there comes a time when focusing deeply on a topic and taking time to break it down pays off. It can take some time, depending on the topic of course. But after some time, getting to know the lingo, looking up things I do not understand, and making my way through some research review articles, the major themes started to click into place.
My brain, which had felt like mush a couple days before, trying to grasp a field which was new to me, finally began to grasp what was most important. I began to think through how to write the review document in a way that someone outside the field might grasp.
I have to tell you though, getting it done was a relief. Focusing for this short project was a bit of a test to myself. Can I do this work? Will the client like it? Can I really make money as a freelancer? It appears the client is happy, and I expect she will leave a good review.
Getting it done can be the best feeling. What are you most satisfied with getting done? Can you make time to celebrate it this weekend?