I think that was a movie title. Never saw the flick, but couldn’t help but think on the title today when in conversation with a new friend.
We were both raving at each other about the details of each others lives. The ones we could see. Then, he made an observation about mine that simply was not true. It was a teeny tiny portion of true I suppose, but the other part? Not so much.
I had a quick decision to make. I decided this friendship was too new to contradict him. I wondered if I was afraid to burst his perfect perception of me and my life, but I ultimately felt he would be embarrassed in that moment so I hold my correction for another time. I figured there would be plenty of time to really share if the friendship was important.
But boy, it got me thinking. What was I missing about him as I gushed about about his life? His home in Venice and the two hour walk with his dog daily on the beach and the exotic travel for the work he enjoyed so much. What was I not getting with my surface observations?
What do we not get about so many whom we encounter in our days, from the loved one to the stranger? What could I not see from the lady whom I feared might sock me in the teeth at Target for our accidental cart mishap last month? What do I not get about my mailman and my bank teller or grocery clerk, let alone the beautiful souls for whom I have the privilege of seeing and caring for each and every day in my own home.
What do we miss about ourselves. We think we know ourselves so well, we may barely event take an honest look or feel. Every opportunity to give ourselves negative feedback when we look in the mirror or when we teeter off the carefully laid balance beam of our lives may be a coverup for actually going inward. What do we miss in these moments?
Of course, we need to make quick observations sometimes. We have so many mini decisions to make throughout the day that we need to rely on some form of discernment about a person in our immediate orbit sometimes. I wonder though if we can make just a concerted effort, even once daily, to open our eyes. Really look, and really wonder. Not wonder in order to make a conclusion, but in order to keep the possibilities open about the person in front of you. Our questions can heighten our compassion, and at the end of the day, this will nourish our relationships more than any judgment or compliment.
I will be gone for a few days so NO CLASS FRIDAY 4/28
I look forward to practicing with you all Wednesday, 5/3!
And look for the Month Of Mondays starting in June!
In appreciation, and compassion,
A wise man once said to me: Where there is contact, there is conflict.
I liked that. The reminder that whether you've been married for decades or just met, the sheer attempt between two people to connect is potential fuel for conflict.
Mostly, conflict comes when we are in reaction mode. Communication may feel smooth and easy one minute, and then…. Bam. That OTHER part takes over. The Emotional Mind is in the driver's seat. Our mindfulness training goes kaput, and the child like part who wants to believe in his own story of injustice interrupts the communication. Most often, the story is from our personal histories and less connected to the people playing out the current event at all.
A wise woman once said to me: Humans mess up, but it is the repair that matters. I liked that too. That felt honest and relieving. The thing that we forget about, however, is the space between the mess up and the repair. If you're lucky enough, the space is soft and short and filled with compassion. The timing between hurt, realization, and repair is in equal measure between the inflicter and the afflicted. Sometimes, though, the space is much wider. For numerous reasons, the conflict hits one person more deeply than the other. One person perceives the conflict very differently than for the other. Time needs to be allotted for the apology to sink in, and trust to be renewed. Within that space, though, comes the potential for even more conflict! Compassion takes a back seat and now we have TWO highly charged drivers fueled only by their emotions clawing for their place behind the wheel. Old resentments can feel like new hurts as one denies the other a road back toward peaceful communication.
I have a lot of faith in people's ability to communicate. I think it takes courage, certainly, to re-open your own hurting heart, and to listen deeply to someone else's. Maybe this action, this action of fully listening to the other without the veil of your own wounds is the real step toward less conflict and more contact. With a healthy dose of patience for the space between, I think repair is possible. Moving on may still be difficult, but the learning is invaluable and only deepens our contact with ourselves and others.
We went to a float tank this weekend. An interesting sort of Shabbat like experience in that you rid yourself of EVERY sensory experience by floating in warm salt water in a tiny dark, enclosed space. This might absolutely freak you out, which it did me this time. In my youth when I had done these tanks, I found them freeing and calming. Now, as a full fledged adult, my task oriented brain was much more reticent to let go into the floating space, so busy was I with planning and details of the future. When I finally decided to ACTUALLY surrender, I panicked. I cheated and opened the little door to let in some light and touch that outside reality. So difficult for me was this pause, that it made me appreciate the difficult gift that Shabbat can be, or any kind of meditation, cessation from work kind of experience. It's scary to unwind. Maybe this is why we DON'T necessarily DO it sometimes! We don't know necessarily what is behind the need to be busy. The distractions of our lives seem impossible to live without: the need to make money, to show up for the co-workers and the others to whom we are responsible. Even the pursuits of the hobbies and activities we count on to unwind us or to inspire us become priorities. What happens to the "other" things though… The relationship issues we might be covering up? The hurts or the discomforts that arise from glitches in our communication with others. The wounds that need attending sometimes get tossed to the back burner as they may be too painful to address in the moment. Then conveniently we get busy enough to ensure that a "better" moment for dealing with them never comes.
This Saturday morning was unique in our house. No one had to be anywhere. Services, rehearsals, performances these were only in the LATER category of our day. This part of the day was to contain us as busy family coming off an extremely busy couple weeks in peaceful rest.
Not so. Somehow the pause of this Shabbat brought out an underlying complexity that the "busy" had been covering. The reality of the day was less than that peaceful glow I'd personally anticipated. For whatever it DID turn out to be though unexpected, and certainly un-fun, it was a necessary occurrence . I am a big lover of Shabbat. I love the idea at least of the total cessation from work. From using things we consider necessities during the week- car, phone, computer, television, and the list only goes on and on. I love the idea that this then means we can enjoy just the passing of time with people that we care about. This kind of time spent though is not synonymous with ease. True, deep communion with ourselves and others someone is filled with many other colors sometimes that have to be gone through in order to truly allow ourselves to freely float.
May this week allow for both, the shadow and the re-integration.
Week two of my MBSR class. the 8 week series created by Jon Kabot-Zin. This revolutionary Mindful Based Stress Reduction program was created for the patients of University of Massachusetts Medical School to treat and investigate chronic pain. I am fortunate enough to have been introduced to it at Insight LA.
I simultaneously look forward to and dread the body scan which is part of our daily homework. As much of a mover as I have always been, and as deep a believer as I am in the mind/body connection, I could not understand why this emphasis on going through the body in guided meditation as the mandatory foundation for our meditation practice.
Today, I got it. I awoke with the dedication to be SUPER mindful during the morning rush. I figured if I was truly invested in the making of oatmeal and the filling of lunch boxes, we would all leave happier people. With this great an agenda, my heart could not HELP but get all clenched up, and my lower right back pain was in close company (though the back pain was helped along by a super fun night dancing in super silly high heels.) I dropped off a very sweet 4th grader to her school, and then felt really lost. I no longer had time for my own full yoga practice, and felt ready to seek escape from both the emotional and physical triggers I was experiencing. Images of thick, frothy lattes with a fellow wallower beckoned. A potentially healthier option of escape came up too, perhaps a long run with the dog, or some arduous weight workout. Then I could almost hear Beth, our teacher's voice, in the body scan recording she sent us. I knew the escape plan for today would be to go further IN and not AWAY from the pain.
I understood differently after doing the scan today how our muscles fire up and can't let go from the usual treatment we give them. I talk about our muscles of course in my classes, how the inhale ignites the movement, and the exhale allows for more length, but through this gentle and deep observation, slow and steady, the sore muscles released from their source itself, and my mind's sore thoughts did too.
The link to INSIGHT LA and their AUDIO options:http://www.insightla.org/audio/
You will find a number of body scans to choose from, some longer, some shorter. Maybe practice a couple and see what you think?
Our new schedule, at least for now!
THURSDAY: 8:30-9:30 (including this week, 1/22 as I had announced an earlier time this morning)
Reminder too I will be at U STUDIO 5410 Wilshire Blvd. Jan. 21 and 26 at 5:30. PLEASE COME VISIT!
Recently I realized how much I like being right. In fact, I was so certain about my right-ness in a particular situation that I was stunned when a very trusted friend and advisor had an alternate take.
And all at once, I remembered something I learned years ago when I first started meditating at INSIGHT LA. It went something like this: the guarantee you give yourself that you are right about your feelings is only a message from you ego that you may very well be wrong.
When that still, small voice of instinct becomes more of a bellow, setting you against your fellow, equally flawed humanoids, you know you are setting yourself up for constriction and isolation, and this will never serve you. It may serve you to have your little martyrdom soap box on which to stand on for a few minutes in front of your mirror or in the ears of a trusted friend who might listen, but it will never get you a) validation, b) peace or c)resolution.
When I am sure beyond a shadow of a doubt that the other person is wrong, I best ask myself what part of me is telling me that. Usually it is the part that got hurt or scared by the actions or thoughts of the other. Once I start understanding THAT, I calm down. My soap box dissolves. Breath returns, through tears sometimes, yes, but often with a giggle too, and a definite dropping of the now tight shoulders. I am then left at square one, but now with a more in the moment, authentic take on the situation itself.
In the second of The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, an ancient philosophical text, it says “yoga chitta vritti nirodha.” There are variations on how this statement is translated from the Sanskrit, but a common interpretation is “yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind.” In other words, we are practicing yoga in order to achieve a stillness, and possibly avoid the panic attacks that we can easily give ourselves by sticking to our sides of the story. This practice of yoga is in the capitol Y form of yoga, the ideas and not the acrobatics.
Just stuff to think about maybe as we move into the new year: from whom do you want to hear your lessons, your unresolved past or from your less mercurial take on the present? Either choice is okay, and in truth, they are both hard. They both cause some amount of suffering. The second option though will invariably buy you more time on this earth in joy and ease.
Sometimes, a little encouragement from your teammates goes a long way. Even in the yoga room. I say even, because I know in our practices we are supposed to be deeply invested in our breath and not at all interested in the acrobatics suggested to us by our teachers.
Yet, every now and then, well…. I remember the first time I got through the entire first series in my ashtanga practice. This was a big deal for me. I had been working hard, for months, 5 days a week (Saturdays were off, but an additional random Wednesday became also a day of rest). I had become obsessed with this difficult and beautiful practice of postures. I practiced nearly 2 hours, and then studied and memorized the sequence in the evenings up til the moment I nodded off, only to wake up earlier than I ever had, and start practicing the movements all over again.
So the first time I accomplished them all without my trusted guide, I let out a little squeal of triumph. The woman practicing next to me responded with her own sound, more of a growl than a squeal really, and a roll of her eyes. Not that I took notice, of course.
The event, clearly, stuck with me. I have since forgiven both myself for needing the momentary pat on the back, and also forgiven the not so interested practitioner to my left. So today, when one student gently observed the progress of another’s backbend, I smiled. When do we as adults have the opportunity to push ourselves physically on a regular basis? I mean, unless you’re in training or in a league of some sort, most of us pedestrian athletes do what we do to stay in shape, and get us back to the responsibilities of our day! So when someone accomplishes a goal, small or large with their bodies, I say go ahead and get a little boost of encouragement, from yourself and maybe even from your neighbor!
I am proud of my students. I love seeing their accomplishments, and have further loved hearing and seeing the joyful sense in the room when these goals are reached. We don’t stay in the triumph. We acknowledge it, then move on, through the series to the next one.
When I moved to Los Angeles some years ago, I kept myself in little compartments. I kept two sets of clothes in the car at all times-audition length and synagogue sized. Once I started practicing yoga, I added 2 more sets of clothes-yoga gear that I would trade out, often while I was driving, for my Drama Therapist costume, a job I brought here from NYC. I kept the compartments easily labeled as well, using my maiden name for all acting related projects and my married name for everything else.
A couple years after my first baby was born, I got my yoga teaching certification. This time, I used both my last names. I think this was my first step, unconscious though it might have been, toward integration of all my compartments. I had not realized how exhausted I had become. This sort of bifurcated existence was feeling less fun and much more of a struggle. Michael Singer writes in his book, THE UNTETHERED SOUL, ” The inside of one’s psyche is full of conflicting forces that are constantly changing … and as a result, we find ourselves struggling to hold it all together. This very responsibility is itself a form of suffering.”
Singer talks about a primal act called Clinging, a Buddhist term for the substitution of consistency with stability. In essence, we create “the bricks and mortar” to build a concept of Self out of our fear. We cling to external forces and decide that is who we are, despite life’s fluctuations.
To integrate the vast parts of ourselves requires a willingness to let it all go, release all the preconceived notions of the who, what, and where of our personal story. I had never quite understood the whole integration in relation to its root word:integrity. To WANT to put all the pieces together shows integrity, a great deal of self-value. The process of honoring ones’ self not for what you do but just for the breath you take doing it.
I like working this way, from this form. And I find the rewards keep coming when I use integreation as my model rather than fear I am too many different things. I just got to play a jazz singer and use the singing voice I have been shying away from all these adult years. Now I’m playing a role using my Israeli roots, speaking in Hebrew and using my heritage, rather than trying to distance myself from my upbringing and try to fit into another mold.
Who knows what else is in store. Maybe it really does not matter. As Singer observes:
You will never find yourself in what you have built to define yourself. You’re the one who’s doing the building.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about trust. How many things a day depend on basic trust.
For instance, I trust that I will wake up, in the bed I slept in, and with some stability, walk myself over to the bathroom. Or toward the kitchen, where I trust my need for something hot to drink will be quickly alleviated. My kids trust that I be waiting there as they stumble in so that they can readily disagree with whatever breakfast I have attempted to prepare.
We trust our clocks, our cars, the drivers in our paths (yikes!), those who paved the roads for us, and on and on the list goes…
I know these are just some of the basic fundamentals and that when you start on the game of trust you can loose yourself in a foggy, frantic maze of anxiety over the “what if’s” of any situation. It can be en endless parade of debilitating possibilities, only made more difficult by the daily new’s feeds.
This is not how I want to live though. I want to keep an educated balance between blind faith and earned trust, a balance I tend to notice most acutely when I am in new work situations. I am constantly amazed by how many people it takes, doing exactly what they’re hired to do, to get things off the ground and then actually RUN. Each person has a spot and a task and yes, money is promised as incentive on a job, but still, trust for the follow-through of each individual is first and foremost. The little invented family expands and fortifies itself as members in the trust game we call life.
My early morning yoga practices these last few days in a new elevated city, has offered me some space for this perspective. I hope we can share this kind of daily pause, and perhaps renew our perspectives towards trust.
See you on your mats soon I hope, as our schedule remains in tact until Thanksgiving (I think!)
I received queries and interest galore from my challah baking blog, and have been asked to post my recipe. I never understand what is special about my particular challah, save for the mass amounts of honey I pour in during the last mixing phase. I trust all the recipes from Marlene Sorosky’s (marlene sorosky recipes – recipes-pro.com)
Fast & Festive Meals for the Jewish Holidays, because they are all, well, fast. And simple in their festivity. She does not use more than 3-4 cups flour, 2 eggs, and I cut the amount of salt in half. And, as I wrote before, I let it do its first rise in the fridge over night, or on the counter in the morning, and then just skip the second rise altogether. I do add honey to the egg glaze sometimes as well, just to keep the memory of the bees swarming around our Jerusalem honey challah joint alive.
Last week, a recipe for Pumpkin Challah made its way into my inbox from the KVELLER website ( Kveller.com.) I made a bunch of those, and oh my… So super yummy.
Now that the run of Jewish Holidays are over, we can get back to other food discussions- I am most eager to share the recipes I learned from the Lois Leonhardi ayurveda wellness workshop at OMKAR 108 yoga! (author of “Eat Well, Be Well: Ayurveda Cooking for Healthy Living” http://omkar108.com/event/ayurveda-fall-cleanse-workshop/)