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.

Happy New Year’s 2018!

Happy New Year’s, friends. Are we all ready to put a cap on 2017?

On the upside, I have officially finished my first year of Yoga Therapist training. I am a 500 hour certified yoga teacher now, and halfway through my therapy program. I have been learning a lot. Through the wonderful students in my classes who are willing to try nearly anything, I have been able to make theory into practice, and see how things work on real bodies in real time.

I’ve been seeing a lot of clients, and getting the chance to delve in deeper, listening not just to what someone is saying, but what they aren’t saying (which of course, is a super librarian skill too. It’s so nice when worlds collide).

If you are hankering for a resolution, and haven’t come up with one yet, here are some suggestions.

  1. Eat at least one full serving of vegetables every day, if you don’t eat any now. Having grown up with a very vegetable adverse family, I learned how to cook, eat and enjoy all sorts (except for peppers and onions, yuck) through challenging myself in this way. Getting a good vegetable cookbook helps.
  2. Cook one new recipe a week, any type. Desserts, appetizers, and barbeque all count.
  3. Read at least three classics this year, that have been sitting on your bookshelf languishing.
  4. Start tongue-scraping daily. It makes a difference!
  5. Write down one line in a daily journal to document your year.

If you are a person who is recommitting to or learning to love your body, the estimable Amber Karnes has a group going called The Body Positive Rebellion. It’s free, with a nice online community.

Stress and Diabetes

In doing all my research for my end of year presentation in Yoga Therapy, I researched like crazy. I must have read 50 peer-reviewed articles, letters and meta-analyses. I read 3 books. I surfed the web incessantly, and here’s what I found out. Stress magnifies the effects of Diabetes tremendously. Yoga absolutely has an impact on blood sugars, cardiovascular health, and stabilization, particularly when paired with pranayama (controlled breath practices) and meditation. The physical poses are good for building strength, confidence, and many other qualities, depending on the pose as well. If you want to know more about it, or set up your own Yoga Therapy session to get you on a plan, email me.

But, those who know me know that I love books, and I found Dr. Napora’s Stress-Free Diabetes: your guide to health and happiness to be a fine read to help put Diabetes in perspective for those who would like to add more tools into managing the condition.  This one gets a rare 5/5 stars from me.

Stress-Free Diabetes: Your Guide to Health and Happiness

 

 

A couple of changes on the horizon

Beginning in December, Chair Yoga at 11 am on Thursdays has been moved to 10:45 on Thursdays at the Blossom Hill location of Almaden Yoga. So, there is a 15 minute difference in time, and the location has changed to 7 minutes down the road.

Also, I am finishing my first year of Yoga Therapy! I can’t believe that I’m only a couple weeks shy of halfway through. I will have my 500 hour certification for this year. As previously mentioned, my very inexpensive first year intern rates for a Yoga Therapy session will be going up next year. So, if you would like to see me before the end of the year, I have a couple of time slots open still. Currently, I am seeing clients on a sliding need-based scale of $25-$50. Next year, the price will increase to $50-$75 as a second year intern, commensurate with more education and experience in the field. Meeting remotely is also an option, given a good camera on both ends.

If you will be meeting with friends and family next week from near and far, may you have a heartfelt connection with one another. There will be no class with me next week at Willow Glen Yoga or Almaden Yoga. Private sessions may be possible.

In search of people with Diabetes

As I complete my first year of Yoga Therapy training (halfway through!), I am compiling research for my end of year presentation. The focus for this year is on Diabetes, and the effects of yoga and stress reduction on blood sugar. If you know anyone with Diabetes, and this person is in the San Jose area, please put them in touch with me. I would love to do some hands-on work in this area to further my research.