So on we can go

If you read my blog, or know me personally, you know that my brother and my mother died earlier this year. What you may not know is that a friend of mine died not long after my mother did. So, I think we can say that spring this year was full of loss for me. Grief, even if it is complicated grief, or expected grief can cause us to react and process life in unpredictable ways. My mind, like so many of ours, can focus on the loss. Indeed, whenever I think that I am feeling good, my loss smacks me in the face one way or another again.

Thankfully though, we have the words of giants to help us along when things feel dark and difficult.

Swami Vivekananda often says things just right. If you haven’t read any of his works, do. Your heart will not regret it. Here is something that has been a bit of light for me lately.

The ideal of man is to see God in everything. But if you cannot see Him in everything, see Him in one thing, in that thing which you like best, and then see Him in another. So on you can go. There is infinite life before the soul. Take your time and you will achieve your end.

2019 has been a bear so far

An interesting insight I’ve obtained from having two family members die within 2 months from one another:

This thing is too big to handle in the usual way.

If you don’t know what I mean, think about what you do when something small, and say, more than an annoyance, but less than catastrophic happens in your life. We usually have a comfort zone of how we handle things. I, for example, will generally take refuge in books (generally something that has a half-clothed duke or baron on the cover holding a wind-swept, but lovely lady) and hunker down, waiting for the storm to pass.

When your brother dies, and then your mom dies, all the Julia Quinn in the world isn’t going to help. This is when we have to think about our resources, and not just put out fires, but watch for a hint of smoke, a hard, dry wind, and try to keep the yard damp.

Instead of my usual MO, I’ve called in my people (and there are so many of you!), and returned those phone calls of love, and responded to those texts, and gone to the acupuncturist. I took a couple of weeks off of teaching, am continuing bereavement leave from my other job, and cancelled volunteer engagements that I was already committing myself to for the new school year. My usual way was not, and is not going to cut it here. I have the grief to deal with, but I am also the executor to my mom’s estate, and I have to say, it’s a horrible and onerous job.

But friends, I’m back to teaching, and available again. And for all of you that I’ve heard from, thank you from the very bottom of my heart. I am loved. Thank goodness.

Ambiance

America often has these love affairs with other countries, and their various aesthetics or the way of raising children or serving food. Right now, publishing in America is all about the wonders of the Nordic countries with their clean lines, warm foods and cozy books on Christmas Eve.

Swept away in a wild moment in Barnes & Nobles a few months ago, I bought the book American Cozy, which combines the Danish concept of Hygge with American sensibilities. While a fluffy sort of browsing book, it did have some good ideas about how we can cultivate our sense of home.

Lately, my extended family life has been full of grief and confusion. I had a bit of time, and I lit a ton of candles and played soothing music, and did all I could do to be fully present in my home. While it didn’t fix anything, planting myself more firmly in my environment and out of my head for a little bit gave me enough energy to move on to the next thing I had to do.

When our brains hijack our souls, we need to bring ourselves back into the present moment over and over again. I’m curious, how do you bring yourself into a sense of home?

Beginner’s Yoga Workshop

Sunday, February 17th, 11-1 at Willow Glen Yoga

This workshop will go over the poses you are most likely to encounter in a public class, and learn how to manifest them in your body. We will cover standing and seated poses, with some variations, as well as poses lying down on the floor. At the end of class, you will take home some starting moves to begin to develop an at home sequence to support you, as you continue your learning journey through yoga classes with a teacher.

$50, spaces available now. Register here.

Keeping the faith

I think most of us can agree that not much good seems to be hitting the headlines. There is injustice and cruelty at every turn. Really, it’s one terrible thing after another. In the midst of all this misery, I came across this great quote in one of my favorite magazines; The Sun. The quote they chose is from Dean Koontz, who is a sort of moral and warm horror writer.

On an individual level, the human condition changed day by day, even hour by hour, and while you were soaking in self-pity over a misfortune, you might miss an opportunity for a redeeming triumph. And for every act of inhumanity, the species managed to commit a hundred acts of kindness; so if you were the type to brood, you would be more sensible if you dwelt on the remarkable goodwill with which most people treated others.

So, friends, while we are doing our best to prepare for better times, let us not become embittered or paralyzed. Let’s look for redeeming triumphs, any drop of kindness we can find and multiply, and look for opportunities to love and be loved. In this way, perhaps we can make it through with our hearts still intact.

Accordions and expectations

I just had a birthday that happens to coincide with a whole bunch of introspectiveness, which isn’t a bad thing. My teacher, BK Bose says that comfort cannot be the objective of an examined life, and it seems that I keep receiving opportunities to examine myself. So, definitely not comfortable, but useful for sure.

A recurring theme for me this year has been parsing out the motivation behind my actions. Sometimes, the reason we started something no longer applies. Sometimes, we do things that no longer fit, but we feel perceived expectations. (Notice, this is perceived expectations. Truthfully, most of the time no one is really thinking about you. They are thinking about themselves.)

A true life example for me is this year, I gave up playing the accordion. I loved playing, for about two years. The learning process was spectacular, and I picked it up when my kids were very little and I wasn’t using my brain much. It made me feel revitalized, and it was a lot of fun. The last year was a slog. With my teaching schedule, library and volunteer work, I never had time to play, and I kept going much longer largely because I fell into a “I should, I’ve come so far” and for adoration of my wonderful teacher. I, however, was no longer enjoying it. It felt like another obligation. I took a forced hiatus from lessons, due to an insane schedule, and didn’t really miss it. The spark was gone. It took me more than six months to realize it, but I had already gotten what I needed from it. I have moved on. I am thankful for hundreds of hours that I spent playing, but circumstances have changed. The only reason I would have kept going is for external approval, not intrinsic pleasure. And external approval? That’s just not a very good reason.

Is there anything in your life that you hanging onto, maybe because you are used to it, or because it pleases someone else? If something has felt more like a burden than something that feeds your soul, sit on it, think about it, and after a time, make a fully aware decision about what needs to happen next. Feel like sharing? Leave a comment, I would love to hear about it.

 

On Platitudes

Friends, I have been so busy. The last two months has been a whirlwind of activity and a sinkhole of responsibility. Because of this, I haven’t written much. When I finally came out of the intense period about a week ago, I went to ground and READ LIKE CRAZY. I read some fun stuff, some serious stuff, and then I read this.

Kate Bowler’s Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved is a work of art. So often, we wish for answers to what we are going through. We want reasons, explanations, assurances, and the conviction that we are doing exactly what we should be doing. Unfortunately, while things sometimes do turn out well, it isn’t a given thing. A Job story isn’t a source of comfort to me, nor is it to our author, who gets a delayed death sentence with a baby in the house, and a history of faith. (If you don’t know what a Job story is, you can read about it here on this Wikipedia page or in brief, Job is a good, God-loving man with a wonderful life and family. Due to a wager between God and Satan, they basically destroy Job’s life and family to see if he is still righteous at the end of his suffering. Lucky Job, he passes the test, and gets an even better family. If you can’t tell, I’m not a fan of this tale).

Bowler’s story isn’t just beautifully written, she offers solid advice for people who want to help in times of trouble. I have a number of friends who have been going through some really rough times. Other friends will say, “I’ve been meaning to call, but I don’t know what to say!” Just call. You don’t have to say anything wise or good. Be practical. Send letters. Drop off food. Be yourself. And read this book. It’s brilliant.

How a Legacy is Made

I just read this amazing book about Joseph Lister, a 19th century Quaker surgeon who revolutionized medicine, studying and perfecting the process of asepsis, which keeps bacteria from taking root. Before Lister’s methods were implemented and popularized, getting surgery was a game of chance, with poor odds. An enormous population of post-surgical patients died from sepsis or post-operative infection, so even if the initial ailment didn’t kill them, the surgery often did.

Things of note about Joseph Lister: His Quaker faith held a strong principle of doing good for mankind, accolades were a distant second. A questing mind kept his curiosity and rigor in testing his methods sharp. His goal did not waver. Over decades of his professional notebooks, the first and last entries deal with the issue of sepsis and post-operative infection, showing that he was always striving for more understanding. His friends and colleagues that he associated with were of a similar mindset (such as Louis Pasteur, who provided the framework for Lister developing his theory). And if a patient needed assistance after surgery, even in life circumstances, Lister did his best to help. He was known as a keen teacher. Whenever the occasion presented itself, he did his best to spread the Lister method and create converts. Who could count the number of lives saved? When vision, intellect, and a strong moral imperative are united, great work can be achieved.

In The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister’s Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine, Lindsey Fitzharris shows us what character combined with purpose can be. So much of our lives tend to float us from one happening to the next. How can we contribute to something greater than ourselves? A common question that many people ask at the end of their lives is “will I be remembered?” Let’s make that easier to answer.

Not all of us may know what we may yet become, but what are you passionate about? What could you prioritize? What is the framework in which you live your life, and are you staying true to the goal? Not all of us will change medicine, but your life has worth. There is something out there that only you can do. As the line from Mary Oliver’s oft-quoted poem The Summer Day goes, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your with your one wild and precious life?”

 

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Domain change

Speaking of the last post, I’ve decided to perhaps not let go, but to move on. My website domain has switched over to lathe.yoga, and if there are any mysteries here in pronunciation, Lathe rhymes with faith. Over time, I will phase out of the other kaphayogi domain name, but it will probably take a couple of months to make the transition complete.

Why did I decide to change my domain name? I want to be a little easier to find, and to simplify the web address. So, there is a redirect for a while, but at some point, bookmark lathe.yoga in your browser, or subscribe to the blog here.

Letting go and moving on

I know I’ve spoken of this before, but so often, people keep themselves from finding satisfaction in the bodies that they are in because they dwell on what they used to be able to do/look like/fit into and so on. There are other things to lament too. I often say that people should have met me before I had kids. I was such a clear thinker, a firecracker! If you have kids, you know what I’m talking about. Sometimes, we long for a period, a person, a feeling from the past. The good news though is that things have always been this way, or at least since the poet Hafiz wrote about it back in the 14th century. So, if you lament in this way, you are unique just like everyone else.

Here’s a poem of his for your enjoyment, excerpted from the translation by Daniel Ladinsky in The Gift: poems by Hafiz, the great Sufi master. If you’ve never read any Hafiz, this has been a very enjoyable and thoughtful read.

Stop Being so Religious

What

Do sad people have in

Common?

It seems

They have all built a shrine

To the past

And often go there

And do a strange wail and

Worship.

What is the beginning of Happiness?

It is to stop being

So religious

Like

That.