Unmet expectations = day ruined?

You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.

— Jon Kabat-Zinn

This morning started off on the wrong foot. I woke up not wanting to get up, but I’d told myself I’d go for a run this morning. Halfway through my workout at the outdoor track, the security guard said it was time to go: it was time fo the students to use it. Then, my yoga practice back at the apartment was met with feelings of frustration and dissatisfaction: it was a cramped space so I felt restricted in my movements, and I was judging myself in the poses I was able to do. After I took a shower, I started reading the news when my dad called me asking how my trip to Taiwan was going. He then launched into a monologue about visiting his side of the family, reminding me to use the correct title for each family member, asking what my plans were and then deciding what I should do and when I should do it. After hanging up with him, I was annoyed. The little things that “went wrong” this morning added up and I was officially pissed.

Now I’m sitting at a coffee shop and reflecting back on the events this morning. Why was I upset?

It began with my expectations. I expected to wake up well rested. I expected to be happy about going for a run, and I expected to run for as long as I wanted. I expected to  feel refreshed and calm from my yoga practice, and I expected my dad to communicate happiness and excitement that I would be visiting his side of the family.

When none of those things happened, I judged the events as bad. I judged my morning as bad. I focused on the last “bad” thing that happened, which was my conversation with my dad. Why was he acting so controlling? Why did he assume that I wouldn’t know what to call each family member? Did he think I failed to be Taiwanese enough?

Looking back, I can see that I wasn’t really upset that each of those things happened. I was upset that I’d “failed” at having a good morning, and that I didn’t seem to be in control of having one. But that’s not true.

Good or bad isn’t absolute. It depends on my perspective. And while I can’t control what other people do or what happens to me, I can control what I do. I can go for a run tomorrow; I can take a nap later if I need rest; I can take some space for myself if that’s what I need; I can still make my own plans during my stay in Taiwan regardless of what my dad insists. Happiness isn’t always about things happening just right. Sometimes it’s about making a decision to create happiness when things don’t.

 

 

 

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Are you attached to your yoga practice?

A few days ago I was working on my asana flashcards for yoga teacher training, and I realized it was almost time for meditation class. I was in a good work flow: I was feeling the music, knocking out the flashcards and feeling accomplished. But I felt the obligation of meditation pulling me. I didn’t want to go. But I felt guilty for not wanting to go.

Meditation is good for you. Asana practice is good for you. More of a good thing is always better, right?

I realized that I was feeling attached to my yoga practice. I was attached to the idea that more yoga would make me a better yogi. And that didn’t feel right. So I thought about it and realized…Saying no to asana or meditation is yoga too! Because yoga is about balance, self-awareness, and vairagya (non-attachment). Rather than following a set routine no matter what my situation or condition is, changing the routine based on what’s going on today allows me to live my life more fully and more true to myself.

So I skipped meditation practice that day, and enjoyed accomplishing my task at hand. No regrets 🙂

Rage Yoga

If listening to your breath as you connect with your True Self sounds a little too kumbaya to you, there’s rage yoga. Featuring swearing, pints of beer, and heavy metal music, it shows that there is more than one way to your yoga practice. While some might argue that this is not real yoga and goes against some fundamental yoga principles, I love the idea of inclusiveness and diversity.  There is not one single path to yoga, and if swearing and drinking a pint can loosen you up and bring you to your heart space, then that’s a great place to begin.  Where you go from there is totally up to you 🙂

 


Image source: https://www.etsy.com/listing/241305694/funny-embroidery-quote-zen-as-fk-in-hoop

On vulnerability (there’s no crying in yoga…right?)

I cried in my yoga class last night.  It was during savasana, and I had an eye pillow covering my eyes, for which I was thankful. Not an all-out bawling, but a steady stream of tears. It had been an emotional practice.

I’ve been processing some pretty heavy stuff recently, and it showed up in my asana practice. Throughout the 90 minute class, I felt a rising wave of emotions, overwhelming to the point that I had to step out of class to take a deep breath.  Balances that usually came easily to me, such as high lunge and parvritta parsvakonasana (revolved side angle), had me stumbling.  I didn’t even attempt the peak pose, hanumanasana (the splits), and chose to rest in balasana (child’s pose) instead. I felt very vulnerable, like everyone could see exactly what I was feeling inside.

What the hell, man?

Yoga’s not just a good isometric workout. I’ve heard it called “moving meditation”, and what I experience during asana is definitely in line with that. Focusing on the breath and moving my body into each pose allows me to be in the moment, experiencing the present. My sustained practice has built a foundation of self acceptance and letting go. It felt as if my mind, body, and heart were processing my shit simultaneously. Hooray!

As terrifying as it was, I let it happen. And man, did it feel great afterwards. I felt a little more at peace, like pieces of the puzzle were slowly coming together on their own, without my over-analytical mind forcing a logical solution.

I’m a big fan of letting things marinate, connecting with your True Self and trusting that it will take you where you want to go. Even when I feel fear and vulnerability, I try to soften towards it instead of pull away or harden against it. Not easy. Not pleasant. But it works wonders. And yeah, sometimes that means you cry in your yoga class. Or on the bus ride home. Or when a stranger smiles as you pass them in the street. But the catharsis that results from openness, curiosity, and loving kindness towards yourself is AWE-some. So grab a tissue, give yourself a high-five, and let the healing begin.

On letting go of thoughts

When I first began meditating, I tried very hard to empty my mind of thoughts. Because that was the point, right? Once your mind is truly empty, you reach samadhi and are free (whatever that means). But the more I tried to push out my thoughts, the harder they pushed back. Like Newton’s Third Law, each push at a thought led to an equal and opposite pushing back from the thought back into my mind. Then I realized something.

I was putting judgement on having thoughts running through my mind. Thoughts were bad, no thoughts were good.  I was very attached to the idea that I needed to achieve no-thought-ness, and the more I clung onto that idea, the further I was from making it a reality!

But I stuck with it.  Feeling like a single young sapling in a wide open field being whipped around by a storm passing through, I stuck with it. And with practice, time, and varying degrees of patience, I slowly started to let go of my thoughts. Instead of rigidly fighting the storm with my small branches, I relaxed and let the storm bend me instead of break me, knowing that storms come and go, and this one too shall pass.

Thoughts still come during each of my meditation practices. In fact, rarely do I feel a moment of true no-thought-ness. But now, I can let these thoughts go. Instead of seeing my mind as a bucket holding thoughts, I see it as a river, with thoughts flowing through it. When I become aware of a thought, I greet it “hey there, friend” and wave goodbye “see you next time”.

Whether or not you have a regular meditation practice, and even if you’ve never meditated, sitting down for a few minutes can open your eyes to how fluid and evolving your thoughts are.  And over time, you may recognize recurring thought patterns, samskaras, that show up again and again. That means you’re on the right track! Observe, and breathe. Thanks for showing up — see ya next time.