Life In Progress

I will not confuse my career with my life.


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The Big Tease

011313 chitra by the fireplace

Our cat, Chitra, has been virtually glued to the fireplace this weekend. It’s been in the 30s and 40s and the mist of sublimating snow has insulated us from the sun for several days straight. The rest of the house becomes stone cold when the fireplace heats up the first floor where the thermometer is, making it uncomfortable for Chitra to lounge about anywhere but right in front of the insert’s glass doors. I’m sipping steaming tea and piling on the fleece.

Temperatures were almost obscenely warm for early January in this part of the country. This past week there was an afternoon when I stood on the back deck, basking in the 50° sunshine, flirting with the dangerous idea that spring was right around the corner. It sure smelled like it. But it’s way too early for getting my hopes up! Spring comes late here and if I let myself thumb through Johnny’s Seed Catalog this soon, I’ll be a sobbing mess by the abysmal mud season in March.

I had such high hopes for a good old-fashioned winter when we got our Christmas-time snowfall here in southern Maine. The storm dumped a good 8″ to 10″ of  pretty snow that was awesome for skiing and snowmobiling. That said, I would have preferred the heavier, wet cement variety that is necessary for creating satisfying snow creatures like my lovely Snow Goddess, and for making snow piles that we can race wooden balls down, whilst laughing our arses off on Sunday afternoons.

This year we haven’t yet experienced the great snowfall that I was happy to post about a couple of years ago. I’m trying very hard to keep my chin up; I do yoga, log eons of rest, ingest gallons of hot herbal tea and faithfully swallow the vitamin D3 supplements that my doctor suggested to keep the blues at bay. Even though there is plenty of time for more snow this winter, the big tease of this January thaw has me on the brink.

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Behind the Eight Ball

Spring is forging ahead, whether I’ve had time to clear the walkways and cut down  last year’s plants. I’ve managed to work in the front garden a couple of times, mostly so I’m not frightfully embarrassed for people to see just how far behind the eight ball I really am.

This morning was so gorgeous that I wandered out to admire those front gardens and was surprised at how good they looked. Last year’s tedious weeding and deadheading in the ajuga patches has paid off this spring. The mild winter didn’t hurt, either. The honey bees and bumbles are frequenting the ajuga in almost frightening numbers this year. Too bad there isn’t some edible/medicinal fruit from that plant, because these plants are seeing serious pollination action. Mr. Wonderful joined me for my promenade. I have had some very productive gardening hours accompanied by this beautiful cat, who almost never does anything wrong.

It makes me feel a little guilty, but I’m secretly pleased that it’s supposed to rain buckets tomorrow in southern Maine. That way, I can make my yoga class plan and do some work around the house, inside, of course. By “work”, I am referring to the fact that I have a brand new homespun book press and have made one book so far and am conjuring my next book binding project. Maybe a garden journal?


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…and Breathe

Every so often, I try to branch out. Put myself into situations to learn and grow. My personal practice has hit a plateau this summer while the professional aspect has begun to gain a foothold — I have been substitute teaching yoga for well over a year and have finally found a place where I will teach on a regular basis. (Yay, but that’s not my story here…) The time was right for a bit of exploration.

I’ve always enjoyed doing yoga in hot weather, but had never taken a “hot yoga” class. So, I signed up for a class at a local studio and attended this morning. It is a gorgeous studio, great location, affiliated with a popular “brand” of yoga and the employees and interns were friendly and helpful.

Obviously, I expected it to be hot, but this room was HOT. A stuffy, closed-up attic kind of hot, but with added humidity. I centered myself, sipped judiciously from my water bottle and prepared for class to begin. The cheerful instructor entered the room and introduced herself (and never stopped talking again until Savasana.) After a few of the modified Sun Salutations, I was mopping my face to keep the sweat from my eyes, but I was actually enjoying the brisk pace and the challenge. There were only a few asana that I found quite challenging (plank, chaturanga and up dog all with one leg tucked high in tree pose position!) but I felt good with the pace and my body felt as though it was responding well to the heat.

The class flew by, my towel and mat were sopping and before I knew it I was back in my car, gratefully blasting the air-conditioning and slugging back water. When I got home, I peeled off my clothes, threw them and my towels into the washer and stood under the water in the shower for a long time. I felt pleasantly tired, but intact and unharmed.

After my shower, I wiped steam from the mirror and looked at my face and realized that the skin around my eyes was dotted with tiny pinpoints of broken blood vessels. I freaked out. A frantic Google session provided good information about this (there are actually yoga forum threads about this situation) and that calmed me down some what. Apparently, I might have been holding my breath during some of the more challenging asana, causing the vessels to burst. I think I heard about this phenomenon on CSI once when a victim had been strangled. Yikes.

I had hoped to breathe new life into my yoga practice and got just what I was looking for. A strong signal to practice renewed compassion for myself, first and foremost.

And breathe.


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A study in contrasts

All manner of nervous busy-mind worries embrace me tightly. Rain has dissolved the features of all my lovely snow creatures. I mourn them. They brought me so much joy. There is that long list of unfinished projects I envisioned working on during the winter months. I wonder where my time went. My personal yoga practice seems to have stalled: I find myself distracted and uncertain almost immediately when I hit the mat. At least I do hit the mat, but the usual rewarding bliss just hasn’t been there this week.

Tomorrow promises an unusual range of activities. Jury duty selection begins promptly at 8 a.m. at the Court House in Portland. Uncertainty and discomfort surrounds my concept of the task. Will this take the entire day? I envision a cattle-call environment with a big “hurry up and wait” aspect to it. If I’m selected to serve, how much time will it gobble up? Will I be exposed to nasty details of a realm of people about whom I’d rather remain oblivious? The more I allow my mind to tick through questions and objections, the whinier I start to feel. The shallower my breath comes. I’m uncomfortable.

Gratefully, my focus flickers to the yoga class I will teach tomorrow at 5:30 in Falmouth, at the end of what I expect to be a stressful day. I’m told by the regular teacher for this class I’m subbing that these students don’t even want to progress to standing asana, typically. A relaxing and non-pressured class culture such as this beckons my focus across the rough expanse of the day tomorrow. Like the light at the end of the tunnel. My class outline and music are prepared. Yoga mat, speakers, iPod and yoga clothes to change into are tucked in tote bags and ready to go.

For the rest of today? Sip tea. Breathe air. Bring my focus back to here, back to now.


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Endings, beginnings

“Unstuck in time” is how I view the week between Christmas and New Year’s. (Thanks for naming that concept, Kurt.) Even if other routines have remained intact, like going to work, the seasoning for the days leading up to January 1 is really peppery. Things that happen to us around a holiday get trapped in amber, making it effortless to ruminate over or revel in memories.

This year, my amber moment will likely be teaching my first yoga class at WholeHeart Yoga Center tomorrow. I am nervous and excited. I am also prepared, pumped and processing moments of self-doubt. My mind flickers briefly on the concept of somehow wiggling out of this endeavor. The struggle passes and I’m back to playlists and language and imagery for ṡavasana.

Even though my amber moment will be trapped in time forever, it will be a springboard. The transition I have undergone this past year has given me the great gift of time and space for the inquiries of yoga. I have emerged with amazing tools for body/mind health and awareness. Time for me to share what I have learned so far, to pass along some of this lightness, and to continue to learn and to grow.

1/9/11 Update:  The yoga classes didn’t fill and there were heretofore unrealized non-fit elements at this venue. I have been released from my committment.

At one point, I found myself wishing for a way out of a situation that was rapidly becoming rather uncomfortable and complicated. I was shown a perfect illustration of the adage “be careful what you wish for.” But it evolved to be the best possible result for everyone concerned.

And now I get to step back and reassess, which isn’t a bad thing at all.

Maybe now would be a good time for trying hot yoga — Bikram!