Rolling Clouds

Even darkness is beautiful

Deep dark clouds roll through the sky except no one can see them but you. The sun is shining brightly outside of your mind, everyone seems to be so happy and enjoying the bright sun while you feel trapped in the darkness of your mind. The feeling of being alone increases even if you are surrounded by a lot of people. Their joy feels like a burden to you. How do they find joy so easily? This thought jumps in your head.

It really does not matter regarding the answer to that thought. You don’t know their life as they don’t know yours. Dark clouds do pass by, not by force, not by strength of character, not by wishing or dreams. They simply pass.

Quiet

How often are you quiet? How often do you just sit with yourself and allow yourself to think and feel? Do you find that you do something else to distract your own quiet? What would happen if you only allowed the silence to be uninterrupted? It can be scary to sit in stillness, to sit in quiet, even for just two minutes. We spend so much time thinking about what we need to be doing or what we want to be doing rather than just being. Interestingly, silence in many places such as cities is not a true concept. However, this can be taken advantage of like a white noise or even brown noise.

We live in a world where it seems everyone and everything is moving quickly. This can lead us to feel that we do not have time to savor quiet focus. It is popular to be busy and seemingly unpopular to not always be involved in some activity. There is a cultural belief that one must always be productive. That leads to the question, what exactly is productivity? What does it mean to be productive? It’s important to have a clear idea of what it means for you to be productive.

Take some time and consider that being quiet and still might actually be a form of productivity. How do you practice being quiet?

Intentions

When this blog was first started, the intention was to a create a space away from social media such as Instagram to share how yoga and mental wellness can work together. However, life was not considered as a huge unexpected situation arose: COVID-19. One could assume that this would have afforded more time to write. It did not. Like so many others, life had other plans. COVID-19 caused changes; good and bad. For almost a year, my whole family was home together. This drew us closer but that was not the case for everyone.

COVID-19 led to further alienation between people. As there were those who lost loved ones due to COVID, there were other losses that were not accounted for outside of death. Friendships were ended, romantic relationships collapsed, people started paying closer attention to who and what they allowed into their lives whether out of obligation or desire to hold on to an ideal. For example, adult children began reevaluating their ties with their parents and other family members. There were many quitting jobs and examining their career choices. The start of realizing that choices exist.

With choices, it is important to be intentional with them as choices do not come without consequences. The reexamination of blood family ties can cause a lot of hurt. The change in career or quitting of a job can cause financial disruption. Moving mindfully and understanding your intentions can hopefully lead to choices one can live with in equanimity.

Awareness

Practicing mindfulness is truly that, a practice. Being aware of your present moment. Aware of your interactions with yourself and with others. Many times, we are not aware of our impact on others or what others notice. It had not crossed my mind that my son was aware of my business, let alone the name. Until he mentioned I should create an inventory for Sunny Wellness of Honey. In his mind, he thinks my business is selling items because he knows I interact with clients on a daily basis. He is also aware that I am self-employed and I was unsure he noticed the difference from when I worked corporate. What that did was remind me of how I have been remiss in my posts because who really reads blogs anymore? It also helped me remember that we don’t live in a vacuum, the little ones are watching and learning.

Will I post more frequently, cannot promise that. One thing is clear, I need to be more intentional with my site and business. The last two years have been one of huge change, most unexpected. Personally and for many others. With this change has come a shift in perspective. A more laser focus on what is important, what truly matters. As I watch my son grow, I am becoming more cognizant of his mental awareness and what that means for our interactions. I am aware that out of all my titles, there is one that I prize the most, and that is the title of “mom”.

Good Living

Honey in a jar with wooden spoon inside

What makes a good life? Is it having a lot of money? Having everything your heart desires? Traveling the world? What is good living? These are questions that I have and the self-help gurus, even psychology professionals would tell you that only the individual can answer those questions. I can understand that but it’s hard to tell the person who has limited financial means or severe mental illness to find that one thing they’re grateful for, one thing that made you happy today.

For those who seem open, I tend to send free resources to things that they might find interest, in hopes to provide support. This worked for me when a friend sent me information about My Vinyasa Practice and their offer of free yoga teacher training during the height of the pandemic. I wanted yoga teacher training and as I’ve mentioned in a previous post, yoga teacher training and even yoga classes at a studio can be cost-prohibitive. Therefore, when I received the information, I was very excited for the opportunity. Especially as a mother, wife, and full-time employee; I needed teacher training that was flexible and accessible. I believe yoga should be accessible to anyone who wants to practice and the training is well. This provides more people the ability to find something just for them or something they could use to help others. Yoga has provided a glimpse into what good living means and I want to hold on to it.

When a person sees no way out of their situation, when they feel like they’re on the brink of despair, in a hole they fear they cannot get out of, these catchall statements lack pith. They are at best unhelpful, at worst harmful. So if you are the helping type, how do you help? Let the person know that you’re there. That you’re willing to listen. To have a good life seems almost mythical especially in our current world. Or has it always been mythical but we are blinded by youth or the stories our parents tell us? Or is our understanding of what a good life is unclear, muddied by life, an illusion placed on to us by others? For me, I am taking it one step at a time. Earlier this week, my husband happily declared “I changed the sheets and cooked! I have accomplished two things today, that is good!” And for some reason, that rung a bell for me, maybe the good life finding that one thing in your day. That if nothing else happened or you felt you did nothing, there was the one thing that you did.

Connections

It took a while but I’ve returned. How have you fared this past year since the pandemic changed our lives last March? If I go by the big picture, it’s been a challenge and we’re still here. Still gainfully employed and still have a home. There have been some losses. One loss related to yoga is that of Lesley Fightmaster. Lesley passed away in November 2020. Her family has not informed us of the cause so cannot say if it were related to COVID-19. It was unexpected for her family and for her online students.

I’ve never met Lesley personally but I considered her my yoga teacher. I practiced almost daily with her on Youtube, I joined MyYogaPal, I joined her Patreon. She did live chats, was warm, communicative. It was my hope to go to one of her retreats to finally meet her in person. It’s amazing that she was able to make connections with people she’d never met online. And we got what felt like her authentic self. It did not hit me how much of her loss affected me until I realized I haven’t practiced with her since her passing. Not only that, my practice has become sporadic. Lesley was an absolutely amazing yoga teacher. She made yoga accessible and was able to express warmth, focus, and groundedness through the screen.

“Yoga is not about the pose” is what she always said in practice. A reminder that yoga is breath and spirituality. Aspects that many online yoga teachers seem to forget with the focus on making yoga a workout or acrobatics. I always felt challenged yet peaceful after a practice. It’s still hard to believe we’ll never get more classes from her. Thank you, Lesley, for your gracious spirit and wonderful classes. God bless you and your family. Rest well.

Accepting Your Gift

As 2020 comes to a close, I have not been reflecting as much as I usually do at the end of the year. However, it is important that I reflect. 2020 had been filled with new situations, there have been challenges, and a lot of changes. Yet, when I sit and think back, it has not been so bad. Much of my stress has been of my own doing as I have been unable to ride the waves of 2020. A lot of unexpected circumstances occurred in that year that took me off guard. My capacity to remain optimistic was severely dampened in 2020. My yoga practice and fitness regimen in general was affected by that tumultuous year. It was difficult to separate myself from others’ issues. Empathy is a gift, simultaneously a curse. There has to be a balance, an ability to not take on more than one can bear.

We live in a society that glorifies working yourself to the bone, “grinding”, “hustling”. One thing 2020 taught me is that I’m not going to add more to my plate in the name of productivity. How productive can one be with so many things going on at once? Looking back, 2020, was a hamster on a wheel. Running in futility in one direction, yet not going anywhere. 2021 does not have to be that way. I’m sure it will come with its own challenges but it’s time to carve a path forward. The gift I’ll be accepting is perseverance. Happy New Year!

Bad At Yoga

The title of this post pays homage to a yogi that I follow on Instagram whom found me because many of my hashtags would include “#badyoga or #badatyoga”. In fact, I still am bad at yoga. I tend not to follow the status quo in my practice and even how I started yoga was not your standard introduction to yoga at the time. Now, it is very normal to practice yoga online. When I started, practicing online using YouTube was not exactly popular. With the appearance of COVID-19, yoga schools and yoga teachers are now adapting and have live classes online which has made yoga more accessible. This is an absolute boon for those like myself who do not have the time or funds to go to a yoga studio. Not to mention, fantastic for those who balked at the idea of going to a studio and feeling unwelcome due to the pretentious yoga teachers and their students.

The more I practice, the more I realize how ridiculous it is to focus on perfection. This is something I’ve repeated many times, progress not perfection. When referring to perfection, not saying one should ignore proper alignment or proper breathing. You want proper alignment so that you don’t hurt yourself but you don’t want to try to push your bodies into angles to look picture perfect. In doing so, you will hurt yourself. This goes for living life. When I push myself to perfection, it causes unnecessary issues. I end up doing too much, overwhelming myself, and inevitably burning out. Going slow is okay, taking detours is okay, and if there is no time limit, taking the process step by step. Sometimes, that even means starting over. I’m bad at yoga because I don’t care if I can do a handstand or a standing split or pincha. I don’t care if my hip is open just a little and not perfectly square. I’m doing what is right for me and going through my process. It is my practice and it is my life.

The Possibility of Forgiveness

The truth is, unless you let go, unless you forgive yourself, unless you forgive the situation, unless you realize that the situation is over, you cannot move forward.

– Steve Maraboli
Blue mug on table adjacent to a laptop with a book entitlted "Light on Yoga" placed on it.

Forgiveness is one challenge that is hard to overcome. It’s such an obstacle, that I can count on one hand the situations and people I’ve forgiven. Even then, have not forgotten what happened. How do we get to a place of forgiveness? Am I stuck in a place of darkness if I have not forgiven? Can I be free if I have not forgiven?

In practice, we are to be able to temper our minds, focus completely on our asanas, and with that, find a sense of freedom. Yet, I am finding it more challenging to in a sense lose myself in a practice. Though, I am not really losing myself, more of searching for myself. I am not able to fully immerse myself into my practice. I am finding myself distracted, allowing worries, frustrations, and anger take hold. I ask myself “Do I want to forgive the atrocities that are being committed on an almost daily basis?” At the same time, my mind is at an unease, my body is unbalanced, and I am holding on to a very thin rope of faith.

In the Light on Yoga, there is poem called “Song of the Soul”. Within the poem itself are the words “I cast aside hatred and passion, I conquered delusion and greed.” To actually do this, one must forgive, right? Or is it saying that forgiveness is not necessary, simply a casting aside of the emotion. But if something is cast aside, does it not mean that it can be picked back up again? I am left with more answers than questions.

I am neither ego nor reason, I am neither mind nor thought.

Song of the Soul

Yin to the Yang

Accept your dark side, understanding it will help you to move with the light. Knowing both sides of our souls, helps us all to move forward in life and to understand that, perfection doesn’t exist. – Martin R. Lemieux

When I first started practicing yoga, I felt that if I wasn’t muscling through it, I was wasting my time. I was looking at yoga as a workout for the body, not a workout for the mind. I felt that I needed to be able to do certain poses now. It had not registered that it wasn’t about the poses. Cognitively, I knew that, but in practice, I wasn’t living that. Have you ever done anything like that? Driven yourself so hard to obtain a level you thought you must get to?

Have you ever pushed and just felt like you were hitting a wall? Did not allow yourself time to relax or even be mindful of your present surroundings? It seems that we live in a society that believes in “Go hard or go home”. Why? Why must we go hard all the time? Sometimes, we really would prefer to just go home. Many times we push ourselves so hard, that we become sick. We have no balance, we are either at 0 or 100. Yes, we have the capacity to do a lot, does not mean we need to do it all the time.

In acknowledging this for myself, my yoga practice became gentler. It took almost five years to get to that point. I started listening to my body more and figuring out what it wanted and where it wanted to go. It really did not like the hardcore practices that left me with a sense of unease. It preferred slower moving, holding, breathing, falling out of poses, and slowly building strength. It can do more now than before without pushing so hard. This is not to say to not work hard or push yourself, this is to say to give yourself room to breathe. Find the dark to your light and vice versa. Reevaluate your purpose and what you want for yourself and not what others want from you or what you think others want from you. And if you want to, just go home.