Saturday, April 30, 2011

Ben's Birthday + Yoga for Back Care

Last Monday was my brother's fifth birthday. Since my mom had to work third shift the night before (she's a nurse), I took over most of his birthday preparations. How sad would it be if no one made him a cake or wrapped his presents?
Here he is with the beautiful cake that I had fun making even though I didn’t eat any:

Last night, I was doing my Yoga for Back Care DVD with Rodney Yee. I have come to accept that I won't be able to do regular yoga. At least any time soon. I won't be able to do all those flexible configurations, those complicated poses that require a bendy body. My body is not bendy. Not like it used to be when I was a runner and before I herniated a disc in my lower back/spine. There is now a stiffness in my legs that I can't fully straighten, and I'm not going to try. For a long time, I was afraid to do anything about my back stretching wise. I didn't want to tear/hurt/dislocate anything. I didn't (and don't) want to do any bending forward movements since that is what I had done when my disc tore. I was bending over to pick up a dirty sock. My back was already in a fragile place to begin with. The bending movement only shoved me over the edge.

So I have only recently begun taking care of my back in an active, stretchy way in a hope to strengthen it and prevent future injury. Rodney Yee's yoga routine for the back really helps. His poses are simple and they target the muscles of the back to loosen and relax them. If anything doesn't feel right, I don't do it. But mostly, all the poses stretch me in a gentle way, making me fluid and mindful of my back, spine, and entire body.

I don't do my back yoga until the evening or pretty close to when I am going to bed. I tried to do it in the morning once, but I still felt way too tight. I need the day time to loosen up slowly and then the yoga at night helps me to relax and let go of the stress I have accumulated. I think it helps me sleep better too.

Last night, while doing my yoga, Ben comes into my room. I have a big double bed, and he usually shares it with me after I read him a story. It's a nightly ritual that sometimes is an annoying habit, but sometimes I don't mind either. So he comes in, ready for his story, and I tell him to wait quietly until I am finished with my stretching. He sits cross-legged on the bed and watches the DVD. Then he starts doing the poses too. It was the cutest thing ever to glance over and see a little 5-year old doing yoga stretches.

Eventually he came to the floor to do them along with me. And then he said, "I need a comfy mat too." So I shared my mat with him. I don't know how relaxing and mindful I was at that point because I couldn't help laughing at his sincere attempts to do some of the poses. But surprisingly, he followed along pretty well. Once, he said, “You make it look so easy.” (Ha!) And another time, “Are all of these supposed to stretch the spine or something?” (Yup) Anyway, he’s a cutie, and he’s always my entertainment.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

8 Things I Have Learned from Eat, Pray, Love (hopefully for good)

Several posts ago, I wrote briefly about Elizabeth Gilbert's book Eat, Pray, Love and how much I enjoyed it. I also shared several of my favorite quotes, which is a very very small piece of what I liked about the memoir because I found myself wanting to quote almost everything. However, I did not share what I got out of the book personally, and, for my own benefit more than anything, I feel the need to make a list of what I got out of the book. Because I am certainly thinking and acting differently now that I have read it. If this makes any sense at all, I feel like a more intentional person, or at the very least, as if I am shifting in that direction. So here are some things that I got out of Eat, Pray, Love:

1. I don't worry as much anymore. About a number of things. Currently, I'm not worried about when I get married or who I will marry. That part of my life is best left to God because any time that I try to make things happen, it never works out. Liz jumped the gun with her marriage and found out later that it was not what she wanted at all. During this period of singleness, I am learning patience, as well as, trying to figure out who I am, what I want, and what love means exactly.

2. I'm not worried about money. I used to worry about it all the time, and I was a stingy person as a result. But I have been finding that there is joy in giving my money to benefit other people. It makes me want to keep giving more, and in the end, I always find that I have either enough or more than enough, and that God keeps on blessing me.

It is important to clarify, that I do not give so I can reap blessings from God (even though that is a nice thought, blessings, that is). My main reason for giving is because I hate the selfish, ungrateful person I become when I am hanging onto every penny and then squandering it on things for myself. Deep down, I really despise that person. It took a force of will to make myself start giving a portion of money away each month. I didn't want to. I really didn't. Finally, I asked God to please show me who I should give to because I kept coming up with excuses as to why I should keep putting it into my bank account. But giving away my money when I have bills to pay helps me build trust in God. It shows me that He will always take care of me and that I have so much to be grateful for because I live in a house, I have enough to eat, I have more than enough clothes, and I am surrounded by family and friends. Not to mention, I have several jobs on top of all that.

While I already had the above thoughts circling in my mind before I read her book, Liz seemed to validate these ideas and show them in action. And while before, I tried not to worry about money, the difference is that now I do not worry about money.

3. I find myself praying and talking to God more. I find myself wanting to have quiet time so I can discover what God is saying to me and what my heart is telling me. I want the same peace of mind, the same joy and simplicity that Liz Gilbert found from her meditation practices. I also see that peace of mind is a choice and that it is not an impossible thing to want, but if I do want it, then I am the one who must ask for it and do everything I can to attain it.

4. I find myself looking at life through a more humorous lens. Sometimes I take things way too seriously, and I miss out on a lot of fun and laughter. Perhaps I should laugh at myself more, and maybe if I smile more in general, it will start feeling more natural. This is a hard thing to do when you are already thoroughly irritated, but it's worth a shot. The old medicine man in Bali gave Liz the simplest meditation to practice: Just sit and smile, he told her.

5. I don't feel the need to criticize "religion." Well, the many facets of the Christian religion. Growing up in a Christian home, it has always been something that has hovered over me. Lately, it is not something I want to focus on anymore. I would rather work on myself and try to love people more because that is one thing I have a hard time with. Until then, I just want to forget about everything else.
In the past, when someone had a different viewpoint than me on the subject of religion, I felt a sort of unresolved discontentment. This comes from my Christian upbringing, I suppose, where one is told that we should be "evangelizing" all the time and "saving" people. I have never been all that comfortable with modern sales-pitch evangelizing, but for a long while, I felt a certain amount of guilt whenever I let a moment pass when I could have been "witnessing" to someone. And that is all I'm going to say because I'd rather not bore myself or anyone else for that matter. There is one part in the book where someone tells Liz, if someone tries to argue with you about a certain aspect of their spirituality, for instance, they are trying to tell you that their way of praying is the best, simply say, "I agree," and then go home and pray your way. I found it amazingly reassuring and relieving that I don't have to make people see my way, and I don't need to get disgruntled if they think or do something different than me. It's simply not that important. There is also a quote that I like from Ralph Waldo Emerson: "God enters by a private door into every individual."

6. Life is a brilliant adventure. What more can I say? Except that I don't feel like I'm tapping into the adventure part of life very actively. But I should start. And it's not that I should, but that I want to.

7. God does answer prayers. Sometimes in a timely fashion, sometimes not. It struck me as very awesome and very revealing that Liz's prayers were answered, often in humorous, ironic ways. Sometimes right away, and sometimes later down the road when she least expected it. But they did get answered. Somehow, and this book has a lot to do with it, I feel more confident with my prayers. When I pray, I expect things to happen. For some reason, before, it had always been a question.

8. Good things will come in their own time. Life may seem miserable and full of despair now, but if I could see several years down the road, I would see that I have nothing to worry about at all. Any pain I am feeling now, will make the good things that happen later all the more meaningful.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Yoga, Ridiculous Easter Movies, and Attempts of a (sometimes) Fashionista

Today I wore an outfit where every article of clothing was a different color. (I've been trying to utilize more of my wardrobe lately). I wore a corduroy skirt which is a mauve-ish/purplish color, blue leggings, a mustard yellow shirt, and a green zip-up sweater. I realized I probably didn't match at all, but it was comfortable, and my sister, who is a fashionista and is always creating these unique, dazzling outfits, informed me that all the colors looked good together. But whether she said that or the very opposite, I would have worn it anyway. (Maybe).

It is a chilly, cloudy day and my little brother is angry that my parents are forcing him to go to soccer practice. I feel bad for him. He's my little buddy, and I'm always wanting to cheer him up or make him laugh, but now I have to be the grown up too and let my parents force him to soccer practice.

Last night, my entire family went to the movies. I didn't care what we saw, but Ben really wanted to watch Hop, which looked entirely ridiculous to me, but I knew that he definitely shouldn't watch Arthur (with Russell Brand) because, even though it looked hilarious, it probably wasn't appropriate for a 4 year old. So Ben and I ate popcorn and raisinets and watched Hop, which happened to have Russell Brand in it also, while my parents and sister went to Arthur. I cringed slightly at all the Easter stuff, like the candy factory and the bunnies and chickens, but it was entertaining and cute to say the least, mostly because the main character is the attractive guy who played the hero in 27 Dresses. In this movie, he's still cute with that endearing smile, and he is in his 20s, with no job and no ambition so his parents kick him out of the house, upon where he meets a disturbing little bunny named EB who has runaway from being the Easter bunny and who has Russell Brand's amazing voice.

I have to say, this movie had much better acting than a previous movie I've seen...which would be...I'm trying to think of it...Oh yes. Eat, Pray, Love. After reading the amazing book, I watched parts of the un-amazing movie. The acting was not very good and the dialogue was awkward, and some of the scenes seemed displaced, and I couldn't bare to watch it after having read the actual book, which was fabulous, and hilarious and life-changing altogether! So anyways, I thought the acting in Hop was much better than in Eat, Pray, Love.

In other news, I bought a yoga mat. A dark green yoga mat with a yellow-green design of a tall plant on it. I have decided to take up the practice of yoga in hopes to improve my flexibility and strengthen/heal my back, which has been doing much better by the way. (I herniated a disc in my lower back last summer, which took a long long time to recover). So we'll see how it goes. My flexibility is currently that of the creaky tin man in The Wizard of Oz. Any sort of bending is very close to impossible. When I do Downward Dog, I feel like I am closer to doing the Plank instead. The only comfort is the nice pretty lady on the DVD who keeps saying to do what my body is comfortable with.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Eat, Pray, Love

I'm reading Eat, Pray, Love right now, and I think I'm falling in love with it. Perhaps because I feel like I'm becoming a better person as I'm reading it. The kind of person who is more sure of herself, less afraid to make mistakes, and more willing to live fully in the present. Liz Gilbert just took me on this amazing trip to Italy, and now I am living with her in an Ashram in India soaking up the wisdom that she is soaking up from the unique people around her as she learns the art of devotion, develops a yearning for God's presence, and makes me want to teleport to that very spot in India right this second. She describes her first night there, in the cool temple courtyard surrounded by the gardens, underneath the starry midnight sky, accompanied by the voices lifted up in song with the beat of the drums increasing in speed and excitement as they greet the approaching new year.

Even though I am not physically there, I feel like her experience has become a part of me, a kind of yearning for more beauty and more sacredness in my life. Because that is what I felt when I read that particular passage. I felt as if I were stepping into something sacred and passionate.

And then there are the people who speak words of truth and encouragement into her life, words that propel her on her journey of healing. Here are some of my favorites:

Teenage Indian boy: "Take seriously. Make punctual. Be cool and easy. Remember--everything you do, you do for God. And everything God does, He do for you." 131

Richard from Texas: “Stay put Groceries. Forget about sight seeing—you got the rest of your life for that. You’re on a spiritual journey baby. Don’t cop out and only go halfway to your potential. You got a personal invitation from God here—you really gonna turn that away?

Liz (aka. Groceries): “But what about all those beautiful things to see in India? Isn’t it kind of a pity to travel halfway around the world just to stay in a little Ashram the whole time?

Richard from Texas: “Groceries, baby, listen to your friend Richard. You go set your lily-white ass down in that meditation cave every day for the next three months and I promise you this—you’re gonna start seeing some stuff that’s so damn beautiful it’ll make you wanna throw rocks at the Taj Mahal.”

More from Richard from Texas:

“Big deal. So you fell in love with someone. Don’t you see what happened? This guy touched a place in your heart deeper than you thought you were capable of reaching, I mean you got zapped kiddo. But that love you felt, that’s just the beginning. You just got a taste of love. That’s just limited little rinky-dinky mortal love. Wait till you see how much more deeply you can love than that. Heck, Groceries—you have the capacity to someday love the whole world…”

Liz responds to this epic, heart-revitalizing statement: “But…I seriously believed David was my soul mate.”

Get ready for another epic piece of wisdom from Richard:

“He probably was. Your problem is you don’t understand what that word means. People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that’s holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life. A true soul mate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then they leave. …”

So that’s just a little taste of the book and some passages that opened up a different way of thinking to me. If you ever get the chance, this book is a great read.