What is Yoga?

My first video blog post! This is nerve racking for me, but sobeit. Let’s call it the year of taking risks and doing away with fear.

Watch below for my answer to the question “What is yoga?”

Let me know what you think of when you think of yoga. What is yoga to you? If you don’t go to yoga class or practice your typical yoga asanas, do you find yourself fully absorbed in another activity? Do you make regular time to practice or do this activity? What happens to the mind while you’re absorbed? I’m so curious how all of you find yourself in the present moment, and what we can learn from you and your experience being Here and Now. Leave comments below this post to join the discussion.

Yoga is a very personal practice that evolves with you over time. Allow the preconception of yoga (and what a yogi looks like) to dissolve and see if you can identify the moments or activities in your life where you find yourself fully present, unified, and aware. You’ve found the beginnings of your yoga!

As always, if you want support in the journey or find yourself more curious, reach out to me.

www.openawarenessyoga.com

quinn [at] openawarenessyoga [dot] com

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The Story of Olive’s Death

Thursday, January 15, 2015

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It was a Thursday evening, January 8. I had a birthday party to go to at 9:30 that night. I got home from wherever I was, went straight to the bathroom. Olive pushed herself into the half open bathroom door and I asked her if she was ready for her walk. She was, so excited for it. I quickly grabbed her pink shearling sweater, the one with the cute skull and crossbones where the skull is wearing a bow, snugged her in her coat, and we ran out the door. No leash. I had been walking her off a leash for about a year and she liked it much better. Her walks were her few minutes of freedom in days she spent largely indoors. They were as much her sniffs and explores as they were her potty breaks. And besides, I’d left her leash at my partner’s house (his name is Kelly) the evening before.

We ran down the front steps and I decided we would make the “straight block.” Instead of looping around the block my house is on, I would cross one street and go straight two blocks, then turn around and walk straight back home. I was thinking about asking my friend, the birthday boy, if he would like to see Olive for the party that night. He had just watched her for about two weeks while I was out of town over the holidays and I sincerely believe he loved her as much as I did.

Right after we crossed the street, moving into block #2, Olive was about 50 feet in front of me and I heard fast rolling wheels. I looked up to see a guy on a skateboard, being pulled by his dog on a leash. The dog was running fast, the guy was guiding him with words, and his skateboard was rolling along quickly. I looked back at my little puppy to see her make a swift turn to the left and run full speed into the street. In the left side of my peripheral vision, I saw the SUV. I yelled “Olive!” She turned and looked at me, shearling color smartly flipped back behind her big alert ears, and then she was hit.

What happens next has gone in memory from a blur to an increasingly crisp, although punctuated, horror. I was screaming at the top of my lungs. I think I was saying “oh my god” and “what do I do.” The tire was still on top of her. I couldn’t save her with the tire on top of her. Her leg was hanging loose and I saw her insides. I knew at this moment that you don’t put this back together. That Olive was going to die.

I always sort of knew, but refused to let myself think it, that Olive was going to die before she got old. Just a few nights prior I was laying on my bed with her plastered on my chest. She fit from my pubic bone to my neck perfectly, her heart pressed right against mine. I was petting every inch of her, inside her ears, her nose. The extra fur and bunch of skin at the scruff of her neck. Even down to her cute little puppy paws, and the thought that I would lose her early crossed my mind again. I cherish that moment. That moment of really memorizing the sensation of my baby girl breathing and relaxing into me, her face in my neck, the smell of her ears (which I love), and a deep appreciation for what it is I had.

With her under the tire, with me screaming and beating on the rear wheel well of the car, I knew that this was it. I think I thought “THIS?!? THIS IS IT? This is how she dies?” I never, ever imagined her death being so brutal. So traumatic. So bloody.

After a couple confused forward movements, the wheel finally pulled off of her body. Her front half was screaming as loud as me, trying to do something, anything about her back half. We were both lost. We were both in pain. We were both terrified. We were both so scared. I reached down to scoop her up, her two halves, and she turned her head and bit down into the meat of my right palm. Hard. My screams changed to “She’s biting me! She’s biting me!” as I dropped her lower half out of my left hand and reached around to pry her teeth out of my right palm. Just as I got her mouth open, I reached back with my left hand to support her hind end, and she bit down again. Again I had to let her back end go, prying her teeth out of me. This time when I had her jaw open and her teeth removed from my hand, I instinctively dumped her to the ground. I saw her, flipped over, landing there bleeding, horrified that I had thrown her down in her pain, and suddenly a woman, an angel, flew in front of me and yelled at me. Yelled loud and certain and clear. “STOP SCREAMING. She hears you. Stop screaming.” I looked at this stranger right in her eyes and asked, “What do I do?”

And then everything stopped. 

My vision cleared. I stopped screaming. I stopped feeling. Time stopped. I started to process through my dog’s death. Olive was dead. My best friend was dead. She was dead forever. But she wasn’t dead yet. She was in terrible, terrible, pain. I turned around to see a small semi circle of neighbors, some closer to me than others. I heard someone shudder “Ay Dios mio.” Someone else was on the phone talking about the vet nearby. Someone else said they told us to go to Dove Lewis Emergency. The man driving the car came out. Asked if we had a towel. I took off the outer layer of my raincoat and gave it to the angel woman. I looked at my hands and said in a monotone, almost whisper, “Her blood is all over me. Her blood is all over me.” I looked down at my white jacket. “Her blood is all over me.” The angel scooped Olive up in my coat. Olive was quiet now, whimpering a very sad, sad sound. I kissed Olive’s head, her and our angel got in the front seat, and I got in the back. We started to drive to Dove Lewis, close by.

Blood was literally dripping off of me. I said “She’s dying isn’t she?” And then I introduced myself. I asked for the driver’s name and the angel’s name. Her name is Deanna. I told them mine name and Olive’s name. And I touched the drivers shoulder and told him that it wasn’t his fault, it isn’t your fault. I looked in the passenger rear view mirror and saw my baby’s eyes, latched on to mine. We stared at each other in the mirror. And then we were there. I jumped out, opened Deanna’s door for her, and ran into Dove Lewis. I told them my dog had been hit by a car, it was bad, and she was being carried in. Deanna was far behind, walking so slowly. She passed Olive, wrapped in my raincoat shell, to the nurse. They were so calm, so prepared. They said I would need to sign papers and I told them I don’t think I can, I was bit. I looked at my bloody hands again, and was led to the bathroom. It was just Deanna and me now. I washed the blood, confused, in a fog. I kept stating facts out loud. “I’m washing Olive’s blood off my hands.” “I’m covered in Olive’s blood.” “I’m not crying. I feel calm.” “There’s blood on your hoodie.” “What do I do?”

The vet tech or nurse came into the bathroom and got verbal permission from me to do surgery. I still don’t understand why CPR is another question, but she asked me if I agreed to CPR. I didn’t understand why it was a big deal. Why I had to agree to CPR. I didn’t know if it could hurt Olive more for some reason. I looked at Deanna and asked “Do I?” and she said “Yes,” and I looked at the nurse and said “Yes.” Olive and I had been in Dove Lewis about a year prior after a dog bit her. That time, she was on a leash and could have benefited from being off a leash. That time I wasn’t the one walking her. That time, I calmly filled out the paperwork, worried but certain she would not die. This time, I knew she was dead. But she wasn’t dead yet.

I asked Deanna to stay with me. She had blood on her hoodie and she wasn’t wearing shoes. She had run right out of her house, right across from the wreck, and saved my life. I would have screamed until I died if she hadn’t stepped in. I would have screamed until I died in a circle of concerned but confused and traumatized neighbors with my dog screaming until she died with me. Deanna saved me, and tried to save Olive.

Deanna, now fully and completely my de facto functioning parts, and I were led into a small room. A nurse came in to treat my bite wounds. I stood. I sat down. And finally I got on the ground into child’s pose. I was bowing on the ground like that when the doctor came in. I asked if she was dead. I think I was waiting for it to happen. She wasn’t dead. They were stabilizing her, but she was bad. There was no response from her back legs, which could be due to spinal fracture or shock. She had lost a lot of blood and was very cold. Her insides were swollen and the doctor couldn’t tell what the damage was. She was still alive. And I was already processing her death.

The doctor left and Deanna and I were alone again. I remembered my partner, my boyfriend, my Kelly. I needed him. I didn’t know his number, didn’t have it memorized. I didn’t have my wallet or my phone. What do I do? I needed to go to the ER after this. I couldn’t remember the name of my health clinic. What do I do? At some point we came up with the idea to look at my Gmail contacts to find Kelly’s phone number. At some point I remembered the name of my health clinic and Deanna called. At some point, Kelly called back. He would be there in 30 minutes. When I heard his voice crack, the first tear came out of my eye. But only the one. After I got off the phone I mumbled a bit more to Deanna. This time facts, but also convictions. I told her I was trying to relax into what was happening. To soften my body and not resist the truth. I told her I was already right with Olive’s death. I accepted her dying. But she wasn’t dead yet. What do I do? I didn’t say it out loud, but I knew that putting her to sleep was going to be a decision I had to make. And I had known she was dead from the moment I saw her bleeding, falling apart, maimed, under the tire. But she wasn’t dead yet. And I had to decide. But no one was telling me I had to decide.

The doctor came back in. I asked if Olive was dead. She wasn’t. She had begun bleeding from her rectum. I knew it then that waiting to see what else would go wrong, or what would be possible, was not the choice. I couldn’t let Olive be in more pain. I couldn’t let myself be in more pain. Deanna interrupted the thought and let it come out, without a filter, “You have to put her down,” and I said it, three times, “I have to put her down. I have to put her down. I have to put her down.” The doctor kept explaining something, something about talking to another surgeon, about best case scenario is that her abdominal wall is in tact, her spine is not fractured, and a couple surgeries, multiple thousands of dollars, and nine weeks in a crate and she might be able to walk again. But also she might never be able to walk again. Never be able to poop or pee again. And she was getting worse, not better.

I didn’t need to hear any of it. I knew what had happened when I saw her. That’s why I was screaming. When I stopped screaming, I knew it wouldn’t happen right away and that a lot of pain was going to come in the next hour before Olive would finally be released.

The doctor told me that she didn’t think I was making the wrong decision, and said that they would get her Olive ready. She asked if I wanted to go back there, and the one regret I truly have in all of this is that I said no. I asked the doctor and I asked Deanna if that was wrong, that I didn’t want to see her hurting, bleeding, crying back there. I didn’t go. I wish I had gone, to be with her. I know she wanted me, I know she was scared. But I also know she doesn’t blame me, doesn’t feel betrayed. I know she felt me in the building. I know she forgives me.

Finally, Kelly arrives. He comes into the room with red eyes and hugs me. I start to cry, just a bit. And then take his hand and went forward with the end of the trauma, towards the point of Olive’s final death. The actual thing. The real thing. When her heart truly stops beating and her eyes close. It’s time to put her to sleep.

First, though, we are brought back into a comfortable room with a couch and we have to talk about charges. About what to do with her remains. We pay. And finally, we go back to see her. She looks weak and pale; she looks drugged up like after she was spayed as a puppy. But she’s covered with a towel and her head is fine and her front paws are fine and she looks like she’s tucked in and safe. I kiss her face. I smell her nose. I smell her ears and I kiss her lips. She is so cold. She is sticky. I pet her noggin and smooth the white twig of hair on her brown-orange head. She is so cold.

I kiss her more and whisper to her that she can be inside me now. That she can always be with me. We look into each other’s eyes. The pupils of her eyes are so big. I can’t even see the marbled olive green, the magnificence of her eyes, her namesake. But I see her and she sees me and we love hard. I let Kelly kiss her. I hold her paw. I let Kelly hold her other paw. And the euthanasia goes in. So quickly, in an instant, her eyes got big and bright. I see the green. And then they close. The doctor listens for a heart beat and confirms that her heart has stopped. I kiss her again, I kiss her puppy lips. I cover her head with the towel and Kelly and I walk out the back door.

The rest of the night was spent in a haze, some time in the emergency room. I didn’t have my jacket and was wearing short sleeves. It was cold and dry. It was dark. I was bleeding. I kept saying the facts out loud. Olive is dead. My dog is dead. Olive got hit by a car and died. I put her to sleep. Olive is dead.

Sometime in the ER, I started talking to her in my head. Asking her to be with me. I really felt like I was talking to her, and in real life I never talked to her. We cuddled, a lot, and we stared at each other. And I pet her and she licked my lips. And I loved it all. But, I didn’t talk out loud to her. I thought to her, but I didn’t think words back for her. But in the ER I was talking to her. It helped. I smiled. I really felt her.

The loss of my love began to set in the moment I saw her under the tire. The first thing my body wanted to do when I saw her was turn around and run away. To pretend I never had a dog. To go home and pretend nothing happened. Then I started screaming and I froze. I screamed and screamed and froze in space. This makes sense. It’s the amygdala, reptilian fight-flight-freeze response. Or, in my case, flee-freeze. That’s as far as I got. I was stuck there until Deanna showed up and snapped me into some sort of stupor, but a quiet one, where I was able to move with the flow and allow Deanna to be my brain. Thank God for this angel. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

When I saw her finally die, I knew it was over. It wasn’t a relief. There was no relief. Not until I started talking to her in my head in the ER. My heart was so broken; my heart wasn’t able to function. My gut, my intuition, had nothing. It had no answers, no innate sense of what to do, my animal instincts kicked in and my human intuition was silenced. By my intellect, my mind, it worked. When I said I was right with her death, I knew it, in my head. I knew it intellectually. My body didn’t know it, my heart didn’t know it, my gut wasn’t working, but my head knew. My head kept telling itself, out loud, the facts. I relied on things I’d figured out before the trauma to make the decisions I had to make during the trauma. To know I had to put her to sleep, that she was in pain and I was in pain, that the chances of her walking away were so slim, and that my finances could not handle delaying what I knew to be the inevitable. Prior to Olive’s fatal injuries, I had thought and wondered and reasoned and definitively stated my take on keeping your pets alive. I heard myself saying, a past self, before my dog was the one dying, that I think it’s wrong. I think you have to put them down. That keeping them alive in that pain, through the initial pain and through the recovery pain and through the sub-par, broken and battered lifetime of problems caused by the injury is not fair. There is room for every opinion and decision here, but this was truly mine. My take was, you had to let go. So I relied on that intellectual comprehension to make my decision in a time when there was no creative intellectual, heart-felt, or intuitive function in my body. I relied on a previous conviction. I’m glad now that I had thought it out.

And, surprisingly, my intellect was what carried me spiritually through the hours immediately following Olive’s death. This came out of left field for me, the reliance on my intellect.

The past year I have spent dedicated time in my practice connecting my heart and my mind, anahata chakra and ajna chakra, love and intellect. They are both wise and both must work together for us to optimally function (also the gut, aka the intuition, aka manipura chakra. That is anahata+ajna+manipura are your decision team, in my experience, understanding, practice, and teaching.) I’ve come to notice that I overuse my intellect and over-rely on the power of ajna, of my mind, my brain, my thinking and reasoning and analyzing skills. This past year has been dedicated not to my mind, but to cultivating an understanding of my heart. Of feeling, hearing, and using my heart. But even so, I pay tribute to ajna at the end of practice by drawing my hands from heart to third eye center. Symbolically and energetically connecting the two. Thank. God. I would always do this instinctively (thanks manipura), but never really knew why. How I would use that connection. How that connection between heart and mind plays out. Well, let me tell you, because I know a little bit more now. It plays out when your heart if fucking broken out of your body and an Olive sized hole fills the space. When your heart is choked and screaming. When your heart can’t pick itself up off the ground, the mind will step in. At least in this case. Sort of like me (representing the heart), and Deanna-the-Angel (representing the mind). She knew what to do. I didn’t. I gave up and gave in. She did it for me. It is the same. My mind did the spiritual understanding and healing for me at first. It gave me heart space.

Here’s what my intellect did. The same tool I used in business and in figuring plans and in analyzing my budget. It reminded me of what I knew to be true about death.

I have always felt like when someone dies, they are free from the confines of their physical body. Everyone has energy, that’s that thing you feel when you’re around certain people. It’s more complex than that, but to put it simply, I know that when you’re alive you’ve got to be in my space for me to feel you there and when you’re not in my space, and we’re not thinking about each other at the same time, then I might begin missing you. Because I can’t feel you. You are off living your life somewhere away from me, in your skin, inside your body, using your energy. I’m not with your energy. So I’m alone in that moment. At least I am isolated from you. But, when you die, your energy is no longer confined to your body. It’s everywhere. Like a supernova, you die and you expand forever. Whatever that other stuff is that makes you up, that isn’t blood and bones, it goes out into forever. Back to where it came from. It’s everywhere, all at once. This is just what I know. I’ve always known it, It’s true for me. But I hadn’t felt it. It was something that I think came from my intuition and that my mind and intellect thought made perfect sense. We all come from stardust, we are made of matter from the space we are in and that we share with Earth and Cosmos, and so we die and our biology decomposes and our energy expands forever. I dunno, it just makes sense to me. I don’t yet have a deeply known truth about the soul or the spirit, although I can tell you I believe it exists. I err on the side of reincarnation, but I don’t know that to be true. Not like I know this whole energy expansion, all pervasive thing to be true. It doesn’t have to be true for you. It’s true for me.

So anyway, without a physical body anymore, your energy is accessible to me. All the time. Isn’t that awesome?! But how the hell do I access it? How do I let it in? How do I feel it? In the ER, and in the next couple days, I had no idea. My body didn’t know how to do it. But my mind, my intellect, knew it was true. So my intellect stepped in. It held it’s own. It was stubborn when other parts of my mind would shift out of the present moment, whirring about the details of the wreck, the sound of our screams, the thoughts of all the firsts I had in front of me without Olive by my side: First time being home alone without Olive. First time practicing yoga and meditating without Olive. First night of sleep without Kelly and Olive. First nap without Olive. When my mind would shift away from the Here and Now, I would breathe deeply into my body, and then some other, deeper part of my mind would remember what I knew. That she wasn’t gone. That none of these things were without her, they were just with her in a different way. So, I set my intention to open up to it, every pore of my body, and feel the sensation. Feel the sensation I knew was available to me, but I didn’t know how to feel.

I’ve practiced this process a lot in yoga, specifically with the heart. The process of trying to feel something I couldn’t actually feel, until Eureka! I could feel it. I had no idea what the language of the heart was, what feeling the heart and making decisions from the heart felt like, this time last year. I knew I’d been in love and made stupid decisions because of the heart, so I knew it was a thing, but hearing it and using it wisely, maturely…didn’t know how. So I laid around in heart openers, such as a small backbend, with my heart and chest up in the air, exposed. I did that for a long, long time, until I knew. Until I heard it, heard my heart. And words cannot describe what that experience is. Words are the language of the mind, of the intellect, of ajna. The heart loves. And I now know how to hear it and how to use it. Except of course, when it’s broken. Because then it just can’t. Not until it mends a little.

So anyway, my intellect reminded my body that things were different and that it’s there and that you’ve figured it out before so you’ll figure it out again and you just have to open up and be patient and give yourself time and space and try. Set the intention. And stay in the present moment. Doubting my past decisions during the trauma, questioning the future pain…not useful. Not helpful. Definitely not necessary to facing my new reality, and in fact, detrimental to my reality. Just feel. Feel for it and know you’ll eventually feel it fully.

And it worked.

I was most afraid of practicing without Olive, since she would always practice with me. Standing over me or finding little nooks to lay down in within the shapes I made with my body. She often sat in my lap like a little bean (Olive Bean) when I did seated meditation. She almost always laid in the crevice between my legs when I was on my belly in a pose or on my back in savasana. She sometimes crawled right up on my heart and fit herself into my chest. I was so, so, so scared to be alone without her and to practice without her. I was afraid of missing her. But remember, I knew it, just knew it, that she was there in a different way.

My first practice I really laid it on thick. I don’t normally set up an altar, like many practitioners do. I have never been taught this, I don’t have a guru or just one teacher to dedicate things to, I don’t really have a God practice, like calling upon Him or Them or the Universe or Whatever when I start practicing. It just hadn’t resonated with me. I did sometimes light one of those catholic pope candles with Pope Francis on it, because Kelly bought it from a tienda and I had it around and I like what I know about Pope Francis and it was a nice touch before meditation. But the first time without Olive, five days after her death, I set up an altar, dedicating my practice to my connection with her. Setting my intention to feel her, my little soulmate, in whatever ways I could now. Dove Lewis sent me her paw prints and a lock of her fur. I had her photo and lots of flowers that friends and family had given me. I looped her collar around the pope candle. I lit sandalwood incense I had sitting around. And I got into child’s pose like normal and began to find my breath. I moved intuitively through the next hour, just trying to be open. Trying to relax. To soothe my body. To calm my mind. To respect and love my practice. To find the present moment, which is the answer to all my problems, which I know through my practice. To meet my grieving, broken, very, very sad self right where I was at, with the love and compassion and attention I always got from my puppy.

After I finished practicing, I kissed Olive’s collar, smelling her just a little bit. I blew out the candle. I put my hands on her paw prints. And I picked things up. Just like normal. There isn’t ever any sort of fireworks after a particularly potent practice. I open my eyes, get up. Pick up my things. Maybe eat, check my phone, get online. Read a book. Just normal things I always do. But always I feel clear. And I felt clear this time, too. Clear, and calm. And not crying. I was in such a slow-motion fog for the prior five days. Hazy, moving thick like molasses. The fog was lifting. Not completely gone, but I had energy. Not that much. But it was better. I repeated the same practice the next day, yesterday. I taught all day, two clients and a mid-size class. I practiced in between. And my roommate, who loved Olive and gave me so much love in the days following her death, commented as soon as I walked in the door last night that I look light. I used to look like I was carrying the weight of a ton of bricks, of the whole world, but I looked light, like I was closer to floating. I looked happy. And I told him thank you. Thank you for saying that, because I am. I felt good. I felt Olive. I felt like myself. I felt whole. Six days later, I felt whole.

I’m still healing, I still burst into tears. I had a good cry after a beautiful vinyasa practice this morning. I hugged friends and teachers. I was given even more love and I let myself feel sad. I’ve had tears in my eyes during the first part of this story, the part describing her death. But I feel okay. I even feel good. And I don’t feel guilty for that, like I should be mourning or more sad or that I’m heartless because I have found happy again after a week. Don’t get me wrong, I am not happy all the time, but I do feel happy. Sad and happy at the same time. One of those future-focused, depressed thoughts I sucked myself back into the present from was “I’ll never feel joy again.” It’s just not true. Intellect got me to this point, and the rest of my body, my heart especially, is catching up. I can love. And I am very loved. I can feel that.

And I don’t have fear in the same way anymore. I just don’t. I did a headstand in my practice yesterday and fell over backwards. Something I was acutely afraid of before Olive’s death and something that didn’t phase me yesterday. I took risks in my teaching, letting my insides show. Speaking my truth. Hell, I played Peter and the Wolf in class last night, not knowing if that would be the weirdest, most disruptive, and not soothing thing for my students. It came to me before my second Olive practice, I practiced with it, and I thought it was an experience. It was my experience at least, and that’s what I know how to share in my teachings. I guided a stranger in meditation for free. No doubt. No fear.

I always felt like Olive was a little piece of my soul that they forgot to put in. When they (whoever they are) figured it out, they were like “Oh shit, give her the puppy of her dreams, hurry!” And there she was, one random day, in my arms at a motor cycle rally in San Marcos, Texas while I was on shift with Red Bull. When she died, she truly could come inside me. And now I am whole. My last great attachment, the one thing I was most afraid of, of losing my love, my puppy, my best friend, my heart-healer, my little soul-piece. It happened. I lost her. And I’m okay. I’m more than okay, I’m good. I feel her inside my heart. And my words and the space I hold embody what it is she represented to me. Gentleness. Compassion. Joy. Excitement. Cuddly cuteness. Intensity. Pure and unadulterated Love.

So if you know me, if you see me in person, know that little Olive is living through me now. That what you get is what I was born to be, and that that little child of mine and her presence in my life was instrumental to bringing me to the world so that I can help create the space I want to live in. One where people see themselves, love themselves. Relax and not resist. See others, love others. Share. Live their truth, courageously and fully and with abundance.

Olive, my Love. All of my Love.

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Generating Inspiration, in Action!

generating inspiration, in action

I’m sitting at my dining room table allowing my brain to mellow so something creative will come out of me. Trying my hand at generating inspiration. It’s one life circumstance (I almost typed “problem,” but that’s the wrong word) I come up against a lot. If I don’t feel inspired, I don’t create. But, I think there is something to priming the inspiration. For example, I’ve been told and truly believe that sitting down to write for 30 minutes a day will produce good stuff. Sometimes trite stuff, sometimes just bitching and moaning, but sometimes, it will end up beautiful. There is no way I’m going to just wake up and be inspired for 30 minutes each day, but hell, I might end up inspired and write for another few hours after the initial push.

And here we are, arriving at inspiration. Guys, guys, it worked! What has been inspired in me follows. It’s yoga stuff, read on if that intrigues you. A practice is included!

“Priming the inspiration” with writing reminds me of a breathing practice I do, that does some priming in the body of its own. Let me outline a couple ideas first.

In yoga, we talk about these five different “winds” or vayus in the body. Without complicating things here, suffice it to say that the inhale breath represents an upward flowing vayu and the exhale breath represents a downward flowing vayu. This makes sense to me – try it. Inhale deeply, exhale deeply. Just start breathing deeply and continue reading, you can do both at once.

As you inhale, allow the breath to fill all the way to the bottom of the lungs and notice how the body seems to rise. Imagine you were underwater, but able to breathe in air. As you filled up with air, you would begin to float towards the surface of the water. Even on land, with your inhale breath you experience the sensation of becoming more buoyant, of lifting up. The exhale breath is just the opposite. As you empty all the air from your lungs, there’s a sensation of sinking. Pay attention to your sitting bones, the two bony landmarks, one on each butt cheek (to put it bluntly). As you exhale, allow the weight of the body to sink further into the sitting bones. Notice as you let go of the buoyancy of your inhale, you are able to sink more heavily into the support of your seat (your chair, or the floor, or whatever your sitting bones are perched on).

So, if you practiced with me above, you’ll notice the upward motion of the inhale wind (prana vayu), even though you’re breathing air down the body. You’ll also notice the downward motion of the exhale wind (apana vayu) even as you expel the air up and out. Cool, huh? Welcome to energy work.

Anyway, getting back to the whole “generating inspiration” theme of this post and the yoga practice I teased you with earlier…

The practice is in reversing the flow of the breath. So, we’ve felt the upward inhale and downward exhale, now we want to direct the inhale downward and the exhale upward. So, just reversing the natural direction of the flow of energy. When I practice this it feels like I am revving up my energy. For those of you familiar with the Sega Genesis game system (R.I.P.), think of Sonic the Hedgehog when you have to rev rev rev rev rev him in a little ball and then he goes flying forward, barreling through a rock wall or something. If this doesn’t resonate with you, think of a hydro-electric generator. Water flows through, rev rev rev, generating a store of energy. I’m much more a Sonic the Hedgehog expert, but I’m trying here. And now I’m done illustrating metaphorically, follow the instructions below to rev your energy.

Instructions

 

Step 1: Sit straight and tall.

Sit in a comfortable seated position, on a chair with legs uncrossed and both feet planted on the ground, or on the floor in a cross-legged position. Rock side to side a bit to find the sitting bones. Come to stillness, feel your body weight resting evenly through both sitting bones. Lengthen up through the spine, bringing the crown of your head towards to ceiling. Tuck your chin just slightly, so that your neck is long and in line with your spine. (Don’t scrunch your neck back and look up in an effort to grow tall. Grow from the crown of the head, not the forehead.)

 

Step 2: Notice your breath and even it out.

Bring your attention to your breath. Just notice your inhales and exhales. Allow yourself to breath fully, maybe a yawn appears. When you feel comfortable and in touch with your breath, start to find an evenness to your breathing. Count the length of your inhales and your exhales and bring them to a 1:1 ratio, like so – inhale, 2, 3, 4…exhale, 2, 3, 4…inhale, 2, 3, 4….exhale 2, 3, 4. This should feel comfortable and natural to you. If you feel short of breath or any discomfort, back off, finding a count that works for you. Continue. As you do, see if you notice the upward flow of the inhale and downward flow of the exhale.

 

Step 3: Find the bottom and top of your spine.

Continue even breathing, stay with your count. Now, bring your awareness to the very base of your spine. Wherever you feel it in your own body. Might be around your tail bone or low back. Just wherever the lowest part of the spine resonates to you. Still continuing with your even breathing, allow your awareness to trickle up the spine to find the very tip top of the spine in your body. Maybe you feel this towards the top of the neck, maybe even farther up through the spinal cord and into the center of the brain. Don’t feel like you have to feel it in any one place, just whatever “the top of your spine” means in your body is right, I promise.

 

Step 4: Reverse the flow of the breath. Rev, rev, rev, rev.

Now that you’ve found the bottom and top of the spine, we will start to reverse the flow of the breath. Begin with your awareness at the top of the spine. As you inhale, imagine you are tracing a line down the body to the base of the spine, whatever bottom spot you marked in Step 3. You arrive at the bottom of the spine at the very end of your inhale. As you exhale, trace a line back up the body towards the top of the spine. At the very end of your exhale, you arrive at the very tip top of your spine, back where you began. Continue in this fashion, for 5-10 breath cycles. When you’ve completed your cycles or feel finished, relax the effort and continue breathing your natural breath. Let go of any control of the flow of the breath and the count of the breath, but continue to breathe (duh). Sit still for just a few more cycles of breath and notice. Just notice.

Feel free to share what you’ve noticed in the comments! Even if you didn’t notice anything but you did try, congratulate yourself on taking 10 deep breaths with an inward focus, it’s a wonderfully refreshing practice during your day, a treat for the body and the mind, and a direct route to being present, fully in the moment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Practice: Seeing Yourself in Unflattering Moments

Practice: Seeing Yourself in Unflattering Moments

This is a practice that is good for seeing yourself in unflattering moments (or emotionally charged moments, like angry or lonely, or when you’re ready to snap and flip shit). The moment you find yourself in this space, follow the instructions below.

Instructions

Relax your brain. Relax the space between the eyebrows, unfurrow your brow. Allow your eyebrows to sink down the face. Close your eyelids, relax your eyes. Travel inward between and behind the eyes up towards the center of the brain. Relax there. Expand. Space in your brain!

———

That’s all, you don’t have to do anything else after that. Just go on with your life. There’s no three-step goal setting process or chastising or journal writing or commitment that needs to be done after you relax the brain, unless you want to. Just…notice whatever it is you noticed, relax the brain, move on. It’s subtle, but it works. It manifests change from a place of compassion, to put it in yoga speak.

Get with me if this doesn’t make sense and you want it to. I’ll help.

quinn [at] openawarenessyoga [dot] com

www.openawarenessyoga.com

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Quelling the Need to Be Right

quelling the need to be right

Once upon a time, I had to be right. Being right was the goal, in and of itself. Being right typically meant someone else was wrong. So my being right was always caught up in competition with whoever else had to be wrong. This made it complicated the numerous times I was wrong. Then I was all caught up having to switch around my erroneous opinions and somehow finagle my way back into being right.

To me, being right tied somehow into being smart, and being smart has always been very important to me. That is, being intellectually smart, book smart. And smart people have opinions, so I would try my hardest to come up with my opinion on the topic at hand so as to remain smart. Having lots of opinions and an overwhelming desire to be right is a dangerous combo. I was always trying to prove that my opinion was the correct one.

One can prove many things, but one can never prove an opinion.

The word opinion itself insinuates its own subjectivity. I just typed “define opinion” into Google and came up with “a view or judgment formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge.” I can explain my views or judgments, I can share them, I can offer them up for discussion and contemplation, but proving them as right is a farce. It’s a waste of time.

At some point, I noticed my little habit, my need to be right. Noticing this about myself was not flattering, so I ignored it for a while, but pretty soon I was feeling less resolute and more embarrassed when I would catch myself in an opinion battle. Imagine arguing religion or politics. Basically, it’s arguing matters of opinion, and unless you’ve got a healthy dialectical, mutually respectful, and open minded discussion going on, you’re probably not going to get anywhere but pissed off.

So, I finally let it in: I have a rather obnoxious desire to be right and I’m wasting lots of time trying to be right and embarrassing myself in the process. And now, what to do about it?

Without boring you with the details, what I’ve learned was about forming opinions. My mind was always analyzing and scrutinizing new information, word-by-word and sentence-by-sentence. In doing so, I was forming opinions about what I thought about each sentence one by one, before giving myself a chance to assimilate and recognize the big picture. You know, seeing the forest through the trees sort of thing. Coupled with my proclivity to defend my opinions (and desire to be right), I got caught up a thousand times over during the learning process, and got in my own way of seeing the big picture. I got in my own way of really “getting it.” I got in my own way of hearing what was being said. It’s like hearing the phrase “the dog ate the donut, because Bob fed it to him,” and upon hearing the word ‘donut,’ proceed to scold the dog. It’s not the dog’s fault. It’s Bob’s fault. And does anyone even need to be scolded in this situation?

So the lesson here is, withhold your opinion until you actually have one. Until you’ve heard the whole story, researched what you need to know, and truly opened your mind to all possibilities. Until this point has been reached, withhold having an opinion. If and when you do have an opinion – an educated, well considered “here’s what I think about that” – then go on having an open mind. Allow your opinion to be wrong, or rather, to be based on incomplete information or limited perspective. Allow your opinion to be dynamic, to evolve. There are very few things that breach the opinion zone and come into true knowing. What I mean is, there are very, very few things I truly know. And all of the things that I do know, I know to be true for me, and not true for all others. Truth, as I see it. ::wink wink::

So that’s the story of what I learned when I embarked on

quelling the need to be right.

The End

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Quarter-Life Crisis and Money is Fake

Money is Fake

My first inkling I was in my mid-life crisis at 22 was when one of my mentors looked me square in the eyes and told me so. Not long after, another mentor and Jungian psychologist recommended I read James Hollis’s book Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life. I never did read that book, but I did process fully through the crisis and am just now successfully arriving at the other end.

How did I end up in such a “second half of life” despair so early in my life? And on that note, why is it such a common occurrence that we’re now calling them quarter-life crises? For me, I think part of the fuel to my value system reassessment (read: crisis) was that I witnessed my aging family retire – aunts, uncles, parents – and I began to recognize some things. I recognized that there was a significant period of time in which layers were being shed, where the question arose as to “what is it that I do with my time?” and the process of doing things, over time, had to ensue before an answer to that question could be understood. I watched relationships reset as both partners found a home again spending the majority of their time with each other rather than in the office. And I watched the bodies resize, relax, resettle, and resize again. I watched priorities shift towards health, the goal of quitting smoking finally realized, a return to how life felt during extended periods of family vacation – that simple, whole, relaxed, and slow type of life. Just watching the days unfold. I watched long-held dreams come true, not through chance but through time spent working hard on those dreams. I felt the space get lighter and heard the tone get happier as these retirees arrived at a natural rhythm, equilibrium. And I watched this happen over the span of years. It just so happens that these were the very same years I began raveling myself up in the same way of life the early years in retirement serve to unwind. I was working hard for the money, saving for retirement, and jealous of all my AARP family members who couldn’t help but remind their young loves how amazing being retired was. Yea, retirement does seem great. It got me thinking.

Sure, I can save for retirement now, and sure, there is a (dangerous) faith that those savings will be there when I’m ready to retire, but who is guaranteeing I’ll live that long? And in the meantime, if I’m accumulating stress ulcers along with 401k growth, ramming my unique creativity into PowerPoint templates to succeed, what the hell kind of Quinn am I saving up for anyway?! A bent out of shape, overly anxious, jaded, and alcoholic version of myself at 75… 

And then it hit me.

I don’t want to get where it is that I’m heading.

WHAM!

I ran smack dab into mid-life crisis mode. Or, rather, quarter-life crisis, I should hope, but I don’t want to count on having another two of these crises at 50 and 75 to mark the next three quarters of my life. And besides, I feel like the path I’ve reset to at this quarter-life juncture (ages 22-26) is one that will offer new challenges. Challenges for my soul and my heart and my ability to love and share deeply rather than those to hone my abilities to intellect, analyze, and outwit my opponents to WIN, the latter of which was a mark of my first 22 years on earth.

Another thing I was able to absorb and that likely instigated my crisis also happened during my days as a corporate ladder-climber. I noticed the state of those higher on the ladder than I. When I really began assessing whether I wanted what it was that they had, my answer was very often a resounding no. Not to say everyone I met and talked to seemed to be up shit creek, but there were enough people who seemed to have dug themselves into a lifestyle they felt they couldn’t back out of for me to take heed and recognize myself in their mirrors. If I kept chasing the dollar, the material success, the crown jewel of my collegiate degree, I would end up turning that money around into a house (major commitment #1 hard to back out of), a marriage (major commitment #2 hard to back out of), and dependents (major commitments #3+ completely impossible to back out of). In doing so, I would also own a mortgage and at least a few other human beings’ lifestyle expectations, woven intricately into the image of the value system I was perpetuating (that of material wealth, of having things…nice things, and looking white collar successful). It was hard enough to quit when all I had to do was take care of myself and my dog, who is small and doesn’t need much (just canned pumpkin and fancy kibble – my princess pooch is a microcosm of those imaginary human dependents’ luxurious expectations.)

Hmmkay, where was I?

Oh right, the idea of retirement. You work so you can retire. Retirement is the best thing ever, but I can’t have it for another 30+ years. Also, I realize staying alive until the age of retirement isn’t guaranteed and that I don’t want what the fruits of my labor are affording me. This is obviously confusing (may I call it “crisis-causing”?), and it gets even more complicated.

OK, so the very idea of retirement savings anyway also seems absurd to me. So I’ve got lots of money in some bank account I can hardly remember the numbers to. Money I have never touched, but money I believe exists. Money that is out there being invested in something (I guess?!) on my behalf by people who consolidate other people’s money and turn it into more money.

There are so many things wrong with this.

First is the fact that I am choosing to give up a growing proportion of my total economic power to others I don’t know to do things I probably don’t support.

Second, it’s a big probably that I don’t support those things being done, as my philosophy doesn’t honor accumulation of wealth for the sake of More Wealth, the act of such accumulation the stock market supports (where my retirement savings is awash and participatory) and therefore, which I implicitly support (BUT I DON’T REALLY!).

(As an aside, it’s my New Years resolution to move my money out of these big institutions – banks, investment firms, etc.- and take control of my own proxy vote in this matter.)

Back to retirement – people, people, people….the Boomers are the last generation that is going to experience retirement the way we’ve been taught it looks like, and lots of them are screwed already! Pensions are already about dead. The promise that you work for us now and we’ll take care of you later has fallen through enough times for the reasonable analytic mind to expect to have to take care of themselves in old age. Don’t tell me this is news to you. Retirement for the Millennial generation (and probably lots of folks in X and Y and even the Big B) doesn’t exist, at least in the way most of us picture it. A healthy, financially stable retirement at 67 is a thing of the past, it’s a fantasy most of us won’t be able to realize. Our system just doesn’t support it. This is already evident today, as faith in retirement, aka faith in savings, wanes. So what are you working for? I don’t advocate not doing anything with your life, just hanging out and abusing substances and dicking around watching TV, but I also don’t advocate spending your time, energy, and precious mind and creativity at a job where you don’t feel fed, don’t feel like you’re personally growing as you want to and as you think is best for you. If you feel like you don’t have creativity, you might be in one of these very jobs, because you are human and therefore you are creative. At least for me, I wasn’t getting what I needed out of life by making money for my company. It’s not true for everyone, but I don’t think I am the only person to ever feel this way, either.  I advocate developing your own innate talents, because they ARE valuable, whether they fit the current system or not. That is, they are valuable whether or not they currently have “earning potential.” (If you’re a blog follower, Being Selfish to Be Selfless and On Being Crazy tie in nicely here.)

And now we have arrived at the system, the stock market to be exact. A pet topic of mine as my point of view blossoms. Warning, soap box. And also, announcement, as I’m introducing one of my core philosophies: Money is Fake. My Money is Fake point will develop over conversations, quiet solitude, and lifetimes of mine and others’ experience, so don’t expect my final say to arrive in this blog post. But, here goes. I told you it was going to get more complicated.

So here we are, with no more pensions, and we have to take care of ourselves. “Take care” means “have enough money” for food, shelter, healthcare and education (because, of course, only people with enough money get to fill these basic human needs. I’m being sarcastic. I think this is an unfortunate and awful fact.) Moving on, the main means in which many of us know how to take care of ourselves is to invest our invisible earnings into the stock market so that it grows and so that we have “enough money” to get by in our old age, when we will be nursing those stress ulcers and trying to figure out what to do with ourselves. I don’t know who is guaranteeing the success of the stock market to continue growing and actually pay out. If someone says it’s guaranteed, they are lying through their teeth. It’s not the way financial gain happens. Google Risk-Return tradeoff, and if you’re thinking “but bonds are safe!” then check this out. Corporations and the government tried and are having a very difficult time making good on caring for their retirees. And even if the stock market was to work out how we’re told it will and return on our retirement investment to support our old, saggy, retired selves, the stock market only knows how to speak money, profit.

I don’t know about you, but I know that I am on this earth to do good for humanity. That’s just my conviction; it’s what drives me to get out of bed in the morning. I want our species to make it on this earth until the sun explodes and maybe even beyond. I want us to have the time and space to continue expanding our incredible human creative potential in science and consciousness and anything else that tickles the collective pickle. I think humans have what it takes if we don’t fuck it all up for ourselves.

But, the stock market, that global, decision-making money mill, does not adequately value our natural environment and real human progress, progress that is good for humankind, for all of humanity. Instead, there’s this thing called shareholder value, the end-all-be-all of publicly traded business (with publicly traded shares in the stock market). Today, shareholder value equals MORE MONEY (aka profit). Money is the language of the market, and with our investments into the market to “have enough money for retirement,” we toke the flame to power the engine that creates short-term financial wealth, aka MORE MONEY, which is far from guaranteed available (liquid, as cash) when we need it. That’s how it works. The market speaks money. Money talks. You’ve heard this before.

Think big here – think long-term survival of the human race. I don’t think MORE MONEY is necessarily best for humanity now, do you? Yes, right now, more money is needed towards projects and ideas and innovation that drive goodness for humanity. But not all the most profitable (and what’s profitable attracts more money and is therefore supported) businesses are those best for the future of humanity. And until the shareholders (namely large institutions, but once again, who am I to cast blame on these big things that consolidate MY money and therefore represent me) find a way to incorporate “goodness for humanity” into the language of money, and can therefore adequately value “goodness for humanity” in a system that only speaks money, the system won’t serve to bring about said goodness. Read that as many times as you need to.

Child, don’t despair, there is hope. It is possible to quantify things into $money that don’t seem at all tangible in that way, so that things that do bring goodness to humanity hold financial value (and yes, some of them do today). I don’t know how, nor am I the right person to figure it out, but I do know enough about economic, financial and accounting principles to know all sorts of things have been successfully algorithm’d and agreed upon to have faith we can do it for the greater good as well as investor profit. Profit isn’t in and of itself evil. But, it is my firm conviction that accumulation of wealth for the sake of having More Wealth is not aligned with goodness for humanity. Similarly, all individuals will not define goodness for humanity in the same way. That is, we all have slightly or substantially different ideas about what is good for humanity. There’s room for all of these diverse ideas, as long as the drive isn’t towards More Wealth and the goal is not to impose one’s ideas on others who don’t see and feel things the same way. There is plenty of space. There is Plenty. 

Call me an idealist. But, if we all sit around arguing, calling each other names, and discussing minutia instead of getting on the topic of what’s best for ALL HUMANITY, finding the people who align to our value system, and then DOING what we think is best, then we are wasting our time and allowing our financial vote to be squandered in a broken system in which we’ve (often unknowingly) relinquished our control. We imprison ourselves, which means we also have the power to set ourselves free; and, in the words of a very wise man, be the change we wish to see in the world.

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Depression

DSC_8998

My take on depression is to accept it and love it, not try to change it or get rid of it. It’s a state of being that turns up uninvited and insists on staying as long as it wants. As my Gramma Ardy says, sobeit. My depression gives me a good excuse to treat myself right, pamper myself, take naps and rest, enjoy the gray Portland weather, practice mood-lifting yoga. In general, my depression allows me to experience a different state of being, and as with Life as a Practice, experience is key. And no matter, I’m going to wake up sad some days. It’s just how it’s going to be. Might as well not lament the fact and spiral down, depressed because I’m depressed and angry because I’m depressed that I’m depressed and resentful of the anger, and on and on and on. I think avoiding my bouts of depression by medicating is unnatural, and I yearn for true equilibrium, untouched by artificial inputs (an idealistic state I believe can exist, although difficult to unearth). Depression is included in my lot in life, it’s not good or bad, it’s just what it is. I seek to be fully me, and respond to whatever that means each moment with the grace and skill gained from experience and practice. Hence, why I accept my depression fully and work with it, not against it.

 

A Typical Depressed Day

Wake up moody with a short fuse, recognize I’m having some kind of unfair reaction (hopefully just internally, but sometimes externally) to my most loved one, and realize that yep, todays one of those depressed days. A state I’ve come to refer to as “having a Time.” Decide to go easy on myself. Self-compassion. It’s no fun to be depressed, no need to be hard on myself over something I can’t control. Also, no use in trying to trick myself into being pleased with the day. Just let it be and move forward. Bonus! It’s rainy and gray outside. I love morose days in morose moods. In fact, it’s kind of nice to have an excuse to be blasé. Just totally unconcerned. Gloomy even. Depression reframed as lucky!

Now, depending on the day, I might be able to stick to myself and have a nice little blah party at home, or I might need to make my way into public and interact with others. Can’t expect everyone to be in a depressed mood with me, and chipper people when I’m feeling shitty doesn’t really help things out. But also, when I’m chipper, depressed people are a total downer. Goal=have a neutral impact. Pipe in as little as possible in public. Keep thoughts to myself, as they will probably be on the more negative end of things, and I don’t want to bring people down. I just have to police myself in public, and minimize the amount of time I’m being social lest I gray cloud all over an innocent friend. If I’ve got nothing on my calendar, perfect! I will drink tea, read, practice yoga and meditate…in that order. And then, something will change. Instead of feeling depressed, I’ll feel neutral, middle-of-the-road. My, my, my, what happened? I’m centered, balanced…relaxed and present. Oh, right, yoga!

Key learning during my last bout of depression – do the yoga and meditation part first, then carry on with compassionate self-care as the day unfolds.

My intention in life for some time now, and thus my intention in my yoga practice, has been to find balance. I even mention it back in July on the blog. The idea is to make my emotional highs lower and my emotional lows higher. To find that centerline, staying close in. Physics might call this decreasing the amplitude of the wave.

Depression wave

In yoga, the idea can be compared to nadi shodhana pranayama, or alternate nostril breathing. Nadi shodhana, among other things, serves to balance out what the Chinese system calls our yin and yang energies and yoga calls ida and pingala nadis, pulling these “opposite” energies in closer to the central channel, called sushumna nadi.

In Quinn life, finding center means reining in feeling “ecstatically exuberant and hyperactively joyous” to feeling “pleasant”; “depressed, morose, and pointedly dark” to “dispassionate.” It might sound like I’m decreasing the spice of life and arriving at boring, but imagine the nuance in emotion. Emotions are complicated, convoluted, and difficult to see clearly. In decreasing the intensity of the emotional manifestation related to some feeling I’ve felt, I am able to more fully experience the emotion and see clearly to the root feeling and it’s patterned impact on my life. I’m able to become more aware of the truth about myself and witness how I experience through and handle things. This is as opposed to displaying some theatrical expression of my feelings through my emotions. Working my way from seeing and being obvious to seeing and being subtle.

Let me back up for a moment and explain something. I see feeling, emotion, and mood as progressive states of being. First you have a feeling (ping in the heart when you think you’ve been lied to). That feeling turns into an emotion (anger at the injustice and disrespect of being lied to!) That emotion turns into a mood (pissy-ness at everyone and everything just because they exist and you’re pissed). So, I’m pissy (mood) because I got angry (emotion) because I felt hurt (feeling).  This is just the way I see things. Feeling(s)–>emotion(s)–>mood. And on the topic of depression, I see depression as a mood without the feeling/emotion progression (i.e. mood without stimulus). I can be depressed for no reason. It’s the hallmark of my depression – I have no reason to feel sad, I just am sad. Sobeit.

Antidote? Practice my yoga.

Find center.

Love my depression as I love my cheerfulness as I love every other state of my being.

Be whole.

Just be.

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Be Selfish to Be Selfless

My rapt audience (occasionally)

My life’s main idea is personal growth and part of my practice is to be as detached as possible from expectations, preconceptions and sudden realizations, especially those I have of myself.

If someone sheds some light on a part of me that is unflattering, even though my first reaction might be defensive and upset (which is a serious hint that they’ve shed light on something that hits home), I try to let those ego-feelings go and let in the realization I’ve just found another part of myself I want to mature through.

All people act as mirrors to all others.

The contents of your conversations, when absorbed with detachment, will inevitably show you the type of person you are. The themes and patterns that keep coming up in your conversations, both good and bad, are your own themes and patterns. Pay attention and try not to take what you notice personally, just take action. In other words, don’t get all butt hurt about it. If you don’t like it, change it.

For example:

If you engage in bitch fests with co-workers on a regular basis, you are a bitcher. That’s what you do. You’ve got to admit it, because it’s true. And if you like being a bitcher, go on bitching. But if you don’t like being a bitcher, then you’ve got to stop bitching. But this doesn’t happen as soon as you decide you’d rather not bitch. No, what happens is you catch yourself doing it again and in the middle of the sentence you get that unsettled feeling and realize you’re bitching again and that makes you feel bad about yourself. So maybe this time you discontinue bitching.  But, the next time you find yourself with the same friends, you begin again to engage in the same types of conversations. These friends may not have had the same realization about how much they bitch, would prefer to continue bitching, and don’t realize that you’re trying to kill the habit.

You now have three options.

  1. Change the topic and see what happens. You need confidence and friends with depth if this is to work.  It’s hard to be the dissident and if your friends just don’t pick up on the new topics you introduce, you may be screwed.
  2. Play to the status quo. You have no one else to eat lunch with anyway, and only a week ago you were enjoying this type of conversation so maybe you don’t mind bitching after all.
  3. Get new friends.

I’m just going to be honest, if #1 doesn’t work, #3 is the only answer. It’s a cold, hard fact of life. Especially if life=growth for you, like it does for me.

Most every relationship I have is either mutually beneficial or it’s not there. I manage my time so there is only minimal exposure to the parties who detract from my being. This is because it is my job alone to make sure my being is the best it can be. When you detract from my being “the best me that I can be” then it becomes my responsibility to make sure we don’t share space. It’s really nothing against you; it’s for my own good. And along with that, the good of the world, since being my best is going to benefit others and being upset or negative is going to vibe out negativity and the world does not need that.

Point being, do what serves you for the good of the world. Be selfish to be selfless.

Surround yourself with people you like and stop hanging out with people who consistently bring out things in you that you’d rather not bring out anymore. Think about it, if you do things that serve you (in terms of friendships, personal growth, energy, good feelings, satisfaction, whatever matters to you), then you ultimately get to bring a better, happier you to all your life situations, which should, in turn, serve your environment.

I’ll say it again.

Do what serves you for the good of the world. 

Be Selfish to be Selfless.

It leads places.

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On Being Tense

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I was at this party yesterday reminiscent of my past work life, and had a crazy Quinn time in my head. Now it’s out of my head, and so I’ll share it with you.

What I was experiencing was a huge amount of anxiety, both my own and everyone else’s. The atmosphere was so freaking tense! The party was full of people who were very friendly and kind and ripe with interesting conversation, but amidst the good times there was so much toe tapping, nervous laughing, and just general anxiety. And, the capper here is, I’m pretty sure most people didn’t even realize it. It’s just that their group culture is steeped in high anxiety; being tense is the status quo. So if you’re just run of the mill highly anxious you’re “normal” and there’s really nothing to be concerned about, or with which to juxtapose your state of being (i.e., that person is calm…I seem to be different from that person…that’s weird, what is different? Oh, I must be pretty stressed out. And, as another aside, if ever I do realize I am stressed out then there’s this really easy way of coping with that and it is immediately forgetting I remembered I’m stressed and stuffing it down really deep, somewhere in my shoulders or hips, to free up more brain space to go on about becoming even more stressed out because “I just can’t deal with that right now.”)

We all need to just hang out in some hip openers and release all that shit. For you yogis or people with Google image search – recommended poses: reclining butterfly, pigeon, cow face OR eye of the needle, dragon, savasana. Stay in the first four 3-5 minutes each side or as long as you can, keep breathing. Stay in savasana as long as you want. Read this if you want some ideas on what to do while your thinking brain has a field day.

Mentally making room for more stress is a great way to a heart attack or stomach ulcer or something else that’s a complete waste of time. Stop for 30 minutes to breath and release and listen and I swear to you you’ll have all the answers. Or at least you’ll have enough answers pop up to keep you coming back to the stillness for more.

Just remember, it’s a practice and of course you’re not going to be great at it the first time you try. If you actually do want to try and want help, get in touch. I’m super happy to assist. Relaxing is awesome and life changing, I am living proof.

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On Being Crazy

Crazy = Creative

Follow along.

-Being creative is seeing things from a unique perspective that is instantly interesting simply because it is new and different.

-“Crazy people” do crazy looking things because the world is different for them and they are reacting to it, which results in strange behavior.

-“Creative people” control the reaction and hone in their craziness by contemplating and embracing the differences they see. Those titled “artists” take the next step and share the results of their contemplations with others in whatever way they know how (painting, writing, new accounting methods; seriously, any and all forms of expression).

Point number one: Creative people are all inherently crazy people, they just think about what makes their world different and instead of an immediate reaction to the oddities they regularly experience, they add contemplation to the mix.  These creative folk must first be crazy people, because otherwise there would be nothing unique, new, and interesting about their work.

To be inclusive, but really just to speak my truth, I will extend the definition of “creative people” to include all humans. Every single one.

Point number two: Humans, as a species, are creative. It’s within us. It’s what sets human animals apart from other animals. It’s the creative power. It’s the god quality. In His Image, right? Whatever you believe, it’s obvious that humans have some sort of potential that all other life on earth does not. Human potential. I’ll call it creativity. (Imagination, perhaps, is a better word.)

If all creative people are crazy, and all humans are creative, it follows that all humans are inherently crazy.

We’re all crazy.

Duh.

And anyway, crazy isn’t crazy at all. In fact, being normal is! Being normal—being like everyone else, being like rules, like culture, like things you aren’t because you’re supposed to—feels to me like a waste of human potential. If you don’t know who you are and you aren’t trying to find out, your creative potential sits dormant. If you do go on a search to figure yourself out I guarantee you that as you go, you’ll find out that you’re endlessly creative, too. You are human, creative is just what you are. A unique blend of genetic code that filters what’s “out there” with what’s inside and spits out something incredible and interesting and very, very true.

Personal Anecdote – Why I Am Crazy

I decided I wanted to get a job. I’m starting to feel like sitting at home meditating and writing and doing whatever it is that I do with my time just isn’t working for me anymore, primarily because I decided to extend my stay in Portland, or otherwise in one spot, for another 7-8 months. Don’t get me wrong, being still is a big part of what it is that I do. Or, rather, being quiet and idle and clearing my mind (i.e. meditation, writing).  But all this “do what I do” stuff aside, if I choose to stay here for another 7-8 months and I still want to travel I need to have money for both. The options, with my current financial standing (or financial falling, depending on your perspective), are mutually exclusive. Anyway, I’m sitting here thinking about this whole tradeoff I have to make and eventually I set off on the money hunt. Baby girl is gonna get herself a j-o-b.

So here I am getting dressed, trying to both be myself stylistically and also get a job. Bear in mind “getting a job” has meant, in my history, donning a black suit and being Business Professional Quinn, complete with leather resume “padfolio” and rehearsed stories as to why it is I am a bad ass and how much I want to work at your company, all of which are bullshit. Once again, don’t get me wrong. I am a bad ass. But stating why on a resume in business speak so that I could get a job that I have to manufacture reasons for wanting is not my jam. So anyway, I’m getting dressed in one of the outfits I wear all the time (clearly, not a suit), make a fresh print of my updated resume that now includes my “alternate life” (which reads so weird in business format), and I head out the door.  In the car, I’m driving to drop off this application and I miss my exit because I am speeding along faster than normal and my head is in the “I want to be away” clouds and dodging the fact the I’m in the middle of a very symbolic episode of my life—the “going back to work after semi-retirement at 25” episode. Does not sound fun on the surface. At this point, I’m still subconsciously avoiding it.  That is, the apparent anxiety was not terribly apparent to me in my state of denial.

Missing my exit gives me even more time to sit on this feeling, this anxious turned panicky feeling I’m having as I drive to drop off my application. In an anticlimactic resume drop, I spend a total of 3 minutes sliding papers across a table to a busy manager who apparently is not in the mood to strike up a “first impression” conversation, I bid my adieu, and head back in the car. I pull out of the parking lot and immediately realize that even now that the deed has been done, I am not relieved of any of the anxiety. No, no, I am even more worked up than before the drop off.  I’m trying some 1:2 breathing now, as self-treatment is pertinent in such a panic, and now I’m feeling physically uncomfortable, which is becoming debilitating. Anxiety has now knocked hard enough on my entire body for my conscious brain to finally pay it heed.

Deep inhale. Longer exhale. Deep inhale. Longer exhale. Insight: “stop operating a motor vehicle, you crazy lady.”

I pull over and stop my car. I sit still for a few minutes. I reach down and without thinking, my hands pull out my laptop to start reading what I’ve written this morning. It was automatic, the action. Once I pulled over and made myself still, my body, which was previously obeying my commands to apply for this job, was now instinctively reaching for my writing.  No commands involved, no effort, it’s just what happened.

Immediately I am feeling better and this rapid change from high anxiety to “rightness” brings the simple revelation that today I want to write. That’s where the energy is for me. I just feel like writing. And what I’m doing instead is driving across town to drop off an application to start working just to make money again. I have caught myself operating under the assumption that I must compromise in some way in order to make money. That I have to do something I just don’t want to do right now to make money to do what it is I want to do at some point in the future.

But hello, me! Hello! That’s the whole point! To challenge that assumption. 

If you read my About page, you’ll see I am on this journey to do what it is I want to do and make it work. That’s my life’s goal at the moment. To do what I actually want to do and not do things I do not want to do. Challenging? Extremely. Risky? Absolutely. Ambiguous? You bet. Reasonable? Arguably, yes. Possible? To be determined.

BUT NOT IF I CAVE!

I have decided to take a year off and I am only at month seven. Granted, the biggest chunk of the year is behind me, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have plenty of space ahead of me to make great things happen. And, if I go against the energy (i.e. drop off an application at a job I am not ready to take yet), I am going to detract from the potential success of this whole thing. And since I’ve still got time on my timeline and savings to responsibly burn through, I should continue following this through. No use in half-assing my massive mid twenties life experiment.

 

Onward through the fog.

 

Hey Reader! It’s no use writing to you if you can’t follow it because I am a tangential and crazy human being. Feedback is so very much appreciated, as are all commiserations and story shares of your own. Talk to me!

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