Yes To Yoga: Day 8

Yoga is a subversive practice in so many ways. In a culture that repeatedly tells us we’re not good enough and that we’ll be happy when we lose another five pounds or if we buy fill-in-the-blank, yoga lets us be exactly as we are moment to moment. Yoga doesn’t ask us to change because we’re fine just the way we are. 

                                                                     – Melanie Klein

 

Full text here.

Yes To Yoga: Day 2

aerial yoga

Day 2: Weight

The funny thing about weight is that as soon as you remove it, you notice just how much it’s really, well, weighs on you. Even typing it, seeing it there in black and white, brings up all sorts of mixed thoughts and emotions. Burden. Load. Heavy. Excess weight. Overweight.

Walking into a yoga class on any given day, there’s the potential for plenty to weigh you down. There’s the judgment of how fit (or not fit) you are. The comparison of your fitness level to that of your fellow classmates. The noticing of their clothing, and how it compares to your own. The awareness of how your clothing makes you feel (too tight = shame; a little looser than the last time you came to the mat = satisfaction). The what-if scenarios of how you’d feel if you were just a few pounds lighter, a couple of planks or pushups stronger, a little more toned. And then there’s any mental or emotional weight you carried over from the work day or your interactions with family and friends.

Then you climb into your silks (fabric hammock used in aerial yoga) and suddenly, you’re weightless. Your muscles slowly relax as the fabric rises to meet and cradle you, momentarily relieving your body of the burden of carrying all of that weight. The thoughts and judgments slowly slip away, replaced with a sense of wonder at how light you feel, comfortable and gently supported, yet still fully in your body as it works to balance just so.

As you move through the poses, fully inverting to a supported handstand or lowering to a set of one-legged plank pushups, the judgment shifts to appreciation, an acknowledgement of the effort put forth and a feeling of awe as you realize what this body is capable of in this moment – extra 20 pounds, ill-fitting pants and all.

As you settle back into the silks, fully supported and gently swaying in a state of suspended rest, the mind settles to meet the body. You’ve shown up. You’ve let go. And as you slip out of the hammock, settle onto the mat for final rest and gather your things to go, the weight is lifted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes To Yoga: Day 1

yogaquote3

Daily Yoga Quote 

Day 1: Letting Go 

I’m not much for fate or higher powers, but there’s something to be said for good timing. Like waking up to the quote above on Day 1 of my Yes To Yoga challenge. As one of my yoga instructors is fond of saying, “When the student is ready, the teacher will present itself.”

One of the things I’ve loved about yoga since my very early days of practice is how it easily flexes to meet you exactly where you are. Or rather, the body can flex to accommodate the movements and the poses in whatever shape or form it feels like that particular day. The trouble (for me, at least) is not the body, then, but the mind.

Even when the body works its hardest to hit every pose just so, the mind isn’t always so willing to accept that effort for what it is – effort. It allows judgment to snake its way in: not hard enough, not good enough, unbalanced, unsteady, weak. And on and on and on, until what little focus was there melts away and even the body starts the doubt its ability to achieve.

So Day 1 was about forgetting the mind and learning to accept. Allowing the mind to meet the body where it is in this moment, acknowledging the effort given and releasing any judgments that surface along the way. Or, as another yoga instructor begins every class, “Yoga is all about showing up. Then letting go. We show up. And then we let go.”

30 Days

quote1

A few years ago, I felt like I was stuck in a rut, so I decided to follow in the footsteps of the great American philosopher, Morgan Spurlock, and try something new for 30 days. The idea is actually pretty simple. Think about something you’ve always wanted to add to your life and try it for the next 30 days. It turns out, 30 days is just about the right amount of time to add a new habit or subtract a habit — like watching the news — from your life. 

– Matt Cutts from this TED talk

Hands up if you can relate. See that? Both hands up, waving wildly. Stuck. Rut. Adding/subtracting habits. All of the above.

I’ve been playing with the idea of jumping on the 30-day bandwagon ever since I read Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point. And then again when I read Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life and Business by Charles Duhigg. Thought about it a bit more after everyone and their moms hopped aboard the Instagram phenom of tagging everything #30daysomethingorother. Then thought harder and realized, what’s the point? If all I’m trying to do is sustain some trendy hashtag for 30 days and there’s no greater motivation or justification, why bother?

And then, just as I’d given up on the idea, a work project brought the “why” into focus. While doing a store walk for a new packaging project, I took a closer look at the “natural” beauty brand YES TO And suddenly, as I walked the aisles and read the theory behind the brand, I had my why.

Suddenly, Yes To… seemed like the perfect idea to, well, say yes to. Because for the last few years, I’ve been pulling back, learning how to say “no” to those things, actions and people that no longer served me. Recognizing that for years I’d said “yes to” everything and everyone, and that my attitude of “yes to” everyone and everything else left little leftover for me.

And now, having made a little more room for what actually matters, I’ve settled into that newfound space and found things a little, well, empty. New friends, new work and new interests had sprung up along the way, but nothing that I’d fully committed to – at least not for the long view.

So here’s to adding a little more “yes to” to my everyday life. I’ve got a laundry list of things I’ve been wanting to get to eventually, someday, when there’s more money, time, the works. Except if there’s anything the last few years have taught me, there’s never enough money or time. There’s only here, and now, and an attitude of “yes to” to fill the gap between want to and do.

And with that idea top of mind, my first 30 days of “yes to” begins.

So here’s my question to you: What are you waiting for? I guarantee you the next 30 days are going to pass whether you like it or not, so why not think about something you have always wanted to try and give it a shot for the next 30 days.

– Matt Cutts

DIY State String Art

 

stringart2

This is a classic case of what I like to call DIYLP: Do It Yourself for Lazy People.

Step 1: Troll the “Arts & Crafts” tab on Pinterest.

Step 2: Find someone else’s really cute and creative DIY project.

Step 3: “Borrow” cute project idea and make it your own.

Sarcasm aside, this is not an endorsement of stealing the creative property of others and passing it off as one’s own. But let’s be clear – there’s a big difference between knocking off a Saarinen for mass distribution (ahem, Overstock.com) and taking a page from a mommy blogger’s DIY book.

And on that note, here’s what you need:

  • Wood canvas (similar here)
  • Wood stain
  • White rag
  • Decorative nails (a.k.a. escutcheon pins, similar here)
  • Embroidery floss or string
  • Template for tracing

What you do:

  • Using an old (preferably white) rag, lightly stain the front and sides of the wood canvas. Let dry at least 30 mins (overnight is best).
  • Lay state (or any shape) outline on top of wood canvas.
  • Starting with the corners, hammer nails into the canvas following the outline. I hammered my nails about 1 cm apart, but it’s more art than science.
  • Finish hammering all of the nails into the canvas. Gently remove paper outline from around the nails.
  • Using embroidery floss, tie one end of the string to a nail. Randomly string the floss across the canvas to fill in the state outline. The string can wrap the inside or outside of the nails, whichever you prefer.
  • Once you’ve achieved the desired string pattern, tie off one end and cut the remaining string.
  • Hang (prop against something if you’re lazy) & admire.

Looking for more lazy DIY inspiration? Try DIY Insta-Art.

 

Cure Project: Complete

Remember the Apartment Therapy January Cure that sort of kicked off the year? Vaguely? Not really? Yeah, me too.

So despite the fact that it is now February, I’m still semi-proud that we finally completed our main Cure project. More details and planning stages here, but here’s the gist:

  • Frame family pics from Christmas card
  • Find & hang wall ledges above credenza
  • Hang and arrange framed wall art & clock

Basically, taking our wall of shame from this sad “before” state…

photo (79)

…to this much more livable “after.”

living room wall after

A few more closeup shots:

And here’s the source list:

  • IKEA RIBBA picture ledges (here)
  • Assorted IKEA RIBBA frames (here)
  • MN state string art (DIY – more to come later)
  • Oh Dier MN cutout (here)
  • Midcentury clock (thrifted frame, custom clock face courtesy of my Dad)
  • Letterpress print blocks (Hunt & Gather)
  • Brass dog statue (Etsy)

On Learning

gloria steinem quote

There’s a funny thing about knowledge: once you learn, it’s almost impossible to unlearn. It’s why a good education is one of the world’s most precious – and arguably, undervalued – resources. It’s why I signed on the dotted line for close to $30,000 in student loans, yet even with my self-admitted penchant for cynicism can’t quite bring myself to fully regret it. And it’s why I think the role of teacher – be it as a parent, friend or legally-licensed educator – is one of the most important responsibilities we can bestow on ourselves and one another.

And yet. And yet, here I sit, armed with a sort of knowledge that I didn’t possess just hours before, simultaneously thankful that I stumbled upon it and wishing I could immediately erase it forever.

I just finished watching Vegucated, a “feature-length documentary that follows three meat- and cheese-loving New Yorkers who agree to adopt a vegan diet for six weeks.” I thought it would be sort of funny, lighthearted even. Watch the big ol’ meathead (literally) try to force down some tofurkey. Maybe he loses some weight, drops a few cholesterol points. I’ve seen Food, Inc., I know the drill. Big deal.

Except, it sort of was a big deal. A capital B-I-G BIG deal. Car accident kind of big, where you want so desperately to look away but just can’t bring yourself to do it.

And the biggest deal? Most of this information wasn’t exactly new. I knew that despite the best intentions (and euphemisms) of the food industry, poultry = chicken, beef = cow and pork = pig.

I knew that some level of pain, fear, cruelty and mistreatment was probably involved in transforming the pigs, cows and chickens into pork, beef and poultry. I even distantly remember seeing some terribly disturbing undercover slash real-life slaughterhouse footage back in high school and swearing off meat – until lunchtime, that is.

Food, Inc. taught me that American meat and animal byproduct consumption has soared since the standardization of grocery stores, freezer trucks and the like. We burn forests, we plant crops and we generally wreak havoc on the Earth in an effort to keep up – and that by participating as a consumer, I no longer can exempt myself from that “we.”

I guess I sort of knew – or at least could have guessed – that buzzwords like “organic” and “humanely raised” and “free range” were little more than pretty ribbons tied around ugly truths in a half-hearted (yet surprisingly effective) attempt to disguise them.  As a copywriter, I’ve probably proofed similar claims without a second thought.

So if I already knew, why was it so hard to hear? I’m not sure there’s a good answer to that other than history is long and the human memory is short.

When I wake up tomorrow, I’ll likely reach for the eggs/milk/turkey sausage with only a brief twinge of guilt. But if it makes any sort of difference, I feel like I shouldn’t. I feel like it should matter more than a few minutes after the fact. I feel like it should bother me that I “rescue” dogs with the same body and mind that knowingly contributes to the cruel and inhumane slaughter of countless animals each year.

And truthfully, it does. But I also feel like somewhere, in the most rational/cynical/truthful corner of my mind, I could just as easily forget – or at least sufficiently bury beneath the relentless ebb and flow that is modern life.

Now excuse me while I step down from my borrowed soapbox. Because “vegan” is not my cause. Aside from a somewhat brief brush with vegetarianism, it’s never remotely been close to my cause. As I sit here with a freezer full of chicken nuggets, turkey sausage and wild game, I’m still not quite sure it’ll ever be my cause – and not just because I recently discovered Applegate’s gluten-free chicken nuggets and they are so. damn. good.

So what does it all mean? It means that today, I learned something that I wish I could just as easily unlearn. That some part of me wishes I could relearn my old “truths” and forget this whole documentary watching experience ever happened.

Or maybe, more than anything, I wish I could unlearn the old truths and relearn the new truths – in this case, how to be vegan – in one fell swoop. 

Of course, it’s never that easy. As Gloria Steinem so astutely observed, that’s why it’s called a problem.