Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Yoga, Shopping, and Filling the Void

I think I finally understand why so many yoga studios these days are cashing in with gift shops and retail sales.

For as many days as I leave my practice at the studio feeling elated, light, and happy, there are just as many days that I leave feeling empty. And not empty in a good way, either - just empty.

The Void.

It's what we try to ignore, push down, and beat back when it surfaces.  It's that feeling of just being a hollow vessel, with nothing inside of you that is in any way substantial. It's pretty damn frightening, if you allow yourself to really feel it deep down in your bones.

It's why we bake, eat, read, and of course, shop.

And what better way to fill The Void when you shop than by acquiring spiritually-themed items? Incense, candles, special yoga clothes, jewelry, wind chimes, t-shirts, toe-less socks, pictures, journals, oh, my!

So we can tell ourselves that by filling The Void with these things, we're making ourselves better, more spiritual people.

In fact, what we should actually be doing is sitting with the feelings and the fear that come up when we start to notice The Void - instead of running away from it.

I actually felt it this morning. On my way back from dropping off the boys at school, I stopped at the yoga studio for a little bit of meditation and self practice. I lit some candles and counted my breaths and tested my body to see where my energy level was at for today.

On the way home, I stopped at the creamery and bought more milk - and cupcakes. And it was as I was driving back into town that I started to notice how grey and damp everything felt, like a cold Sunday afternoon. I felt it in my heart, and down in my bones.

That was the exact moment that my mind said to me, "Oh, hey, the thrift shop is open today - maybe you should go look for some new pants for Colden and maybe a few things for yourself."

BOOM! I caught myself before I drove past my house and straight to the thrift shop. First of all, I just cleaned out all of my kid's clothes and washed everything and stocked his dresser with six pairs of pants, none of which have holes in the knees. That's more than enough for now.

Second of all, I neither need nor have the space for any more clothes in my room. I have SO MANY FUCKING ITEMS OF CLOTHING it's almost a disgrace - and that's after I packed up two bags to give to the thrift shop last weekend.

Third, I have about ten bucks left to my name after I pay for the snow tires to be put on the car this afternoon, so it's not like I have a lot of money to spend on clothing right now - even thrift shop clothing.

So what the hell was my mind doing, suggesting to me that I needed to go shopping?

Trying to fill The Void, that's what it was doing.

So do you see what happens, here? This practice of yoga, this slowing down and turning inward, will always, invariably, lead us to The Void. It's that place where we acknowledge that we are indeed united with the rest of existence, and yet we are nothing. It's that place where we can let go of the Ego and just be, and for most of us, it's still pretty uncomfortable, if not downright scary.

And if you feel that way after a yoga class, well, that's okay. We're trying to go deeper into ourselves, right? Yoga is that journey inward, to pure consciousness. It's not really an easy journey, is it?

And what do we do when we start to feel that fear? We try to placate it. We try to fill up that emptiness with stuff, without allowing ourselves the chance to really sit with it and experience it.

I'm no stranger to the yoga-spirituality-impulse buy, either. Let's not talk about my collection of yoga clothes, or gemstones, or jewelry, or candles...

I think most big retailers in this country are, to some degree, aware that people are very uncomfortable with this feeling of emptiness. We're all terrified of feeling unloved or not needed or inferior, and so we try to mask these feelings with lots and lots of THINGS.

But the truth is, all that stuff - the things, the feelings - they all go away, eventually. And what are we left with?

While I try to chew on that for a while, I'm going to go make myself a cup of hot chocolate and enjoy the sensation of eating a chocolate cupcake. No sense on venturing into The Void on an empty stomach.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

What's Really Going On, or, Skinny Girls Have Body Image Issues, Too

I'm nearly finished with my Curvy Yoga Certification training, and I'm starting to think about setting up workshops and series classes and all that fun stuff. In fact, I spent a good chunk of tonight working on a couple of marketing materials like flyers and brochures.

And you know, as I've been working through the materials from each module and completing the homework, I've become so much more aware of my own body image issues.

Looking at me on the surface, you might wonder, what the hell is she talking about?

Yeah, I've lost a LOT of weight in the last few years. Like, more than 30 pounds. And I've managed to keep it off, too, for the most part.

I find myself practicing some very physically intense forms of yoga. (Although not hot yoga, noooo!) And I've developed a lot of strength as a result of that - hell, I've got real muscles! I can hike again! I can bike! I can swim! I have energy!

But the other day, I put on my jeans, and I put on my shirt, and I looked down at my belly, and I just squirmed around a whole lot inside.

I had a BELLY. Ugh!

There it was, sticking out of my shirt like this grotesque blob... It rolled all the way down my front, down into the waistband of my jeans. It was flabby. It flopped around. It was ROUND.  The more I looked down at it, the more I felt like I couldn't possibly go out in public like, well, like THIS. Children would run away screaming. Adults would point and whisper. I was a horrible person because I had a floppy tummy.

For more than a few minutes, I had this picture in my head of a super-slim Jennifer Aniston with her flat, non-existent belly and I was jealous. So jealous.

Why did I have this huge, enormous, gross jiggly belly full of flab to contend with on this particular morning? Why, why, why? Why couldn't I be slim and fabulous like Jennifer Aniston?

Before I could beat myself up any more over my belly, I stopped to remember something that I had read for Curvy Yoga training. And it was something like: no matter what part of my body I hate on this particular day, what's really going on is never about my body.


Reality check!

Yup. That's me with my big belly. Reality check, anyone?

 That was a clear sign to me that maybe I needed to slow down and figure out what was really going on that morning. Because whatever I was angry about, it wasn't my belly.

After I dropped the boys off at school, I spent a little time in quiet meditation, and hey, a few things came up as I sat in stillness.

None of them were about my body.

They were more along the lines of: oh my God I have so many bills to pay and I have deadlines coming up and I feel like I don't know what I'm doing half the time and I'm scared and my job is driving my crazy and what if my husband doesn't love me anymore and what if I teach a really sucky yoga class tonight and and and....

So I was feeling all of these insecurities about other things that had absolutely nothing to do with the way my body looks, and I was just internalizing them all into a temper tantrum about what my body looked like.

What did I do about it? Stay tuned....

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Spiritual Housekeeping

So, there I was, thinking about how nice it would be to get ready for a manifesting ritual for the full moon this Thursday. I was all set to go - I thought I was so ready to invite some positive energy and some real change into my life! I wrote up a whole blog about a full moon manifesting ritual, even picked out a journal that I would use to record my progress as I move down this path to becoming a full-time Ayurvedic practitioner and yoga teacher.

And what happens?

Alas, after doing my homework, I find that I am mistaken. It is not the full moon that is best for manifesting, it is the NEW moon that is used for manifesting.

The full moon, indeed, is best for letting go and releasing negativity.

Well, that wasn't what I was expecting. But once I stopped to think about it, it sort of makes sense.

We spent this past weekend cleaning our house, nearly from top to bottom. We moved some furniture around, put some stuff into storage that we knew we wouldn't be using for a while, and gave the floors and windows a good scrubbing. We did laundry. We sorted clothes and toys and dishes. We moved all the plants from the outside back porch (where it has been well below freezing the last few nights) back into the living room, where they can stay relatively warm in the heat from the wood stove. We even cleaned the fish tank and installed a new heater for the poor little fishies who have, no doubt, been freezing their little fish butts off since the old heater crapped out a couple of weeks ago.

Just when you think you *might* be ready for something new in your life, sometimes you have to stop and think about what you need to get rid of in order to make room for that new something. Right? I mean, after all, just like in our material world, things pile up, energy gets clogged in the physical body, and unless you live in an enormous mansion with an endless underground storage cellar, sometimes you just have to let shit GO.

So after my initial disappointment that I could not use this full moon for manifesting, I realized that I might have a wee bit of spiritual "housecleaning" to do. And this full moon seems like the perfect time to do just that.

My plan is to go to yoga tomorrow evening as usual, but then when I get home, I will light a stick of incense and spend a few minutes in quiet meditation in front of the wood stove. When I'm ready, I will write down a few things that I need to let go of on small slips of paper. One by one, I will feed the papers into the fire going in the wood stove, and visualize these things turning into smoke. After a small prayer of thanks and gratitude, I'll have a cup of tea, maybe a warm bath, and then go to bed.

Tomorrow is the perfect time to do a little spiritual house cleaning. What will you  let go of tomorrow?

Monday, November 3, 2014

Turning Of the Year

Samhain, or Halloween as we now call it, was celebrated as the last day of the year in ancient cultures. It was the day when animals were slaughtered for winter food, and preparations were made for the dark, cold winter ahead. Just as the day began at dusk, so the new year began at the darkest part of the year. It was believed that spirits could more easily enter the world of the living during this time, and their presence was honored.

I love the idea that Halloween is sort of a New Year's Eve, preparing us for the beginning of a new cycle on November 1. It definitely felt that way for me this year. I felt more of the shifting energy than in years past. Not sure if it's because of my yoga practice, of my being able to tune in to my own energies better, or just because the energies were particularly strong this year.

This morning, I can't help but think: wouldn't it be wonderful if we could go back to a worship of nature and living more in tune with the natural cycles of life? (Or that could be just the "jet lag" talking, from setting the clocks back an hour this weekend.)