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One would think that having 4 days off from work would lend itself to large chunks of time devoted solely to blogging, but I seem to have been too busy eating my weight in various forms of carbohydrates to sit down and commit myself to the keyboard. I’ve had blog post ideas stored in my brain for the past week (things I’m thankful for! 5Rhythms recap! yoga weekend!), and now they are all just melding together like the sweet potatoes, corn, and stuffing on my holiday dinner plate. That said, consider this my “Thanksgiving plate” post–a whole bunch of everything, all mashed together (and hopefully you’re not one of those people who can’t stand their food touching).
Four Days of Consumption: 2 pumpkin spice lattes, 1 hot chocolate, 2 green juices, 1 full Thanksgiving dinner, 2 mini cupcakes, 1/2 giant chocolate peanut butter cupcake, 1 full diner breakfast + 1 full homemade breakfast, 2 glasses red wine, 1 margarita, 1 mimosa, pumpkin pie, plus a burrito thrown in to make it an international weekend. A random slice of pizza, too. And several Tums.
Looking Forward To: going back to eating soup for lunch. And not feeling like I have to walk 3 miles after every meal to keep my pants from popping.
I’m Thankful For ___: the random stranger who pulled over as I was walking to inform me that I dropped my glove a few yards back; road-widening projects that require the cutting-down of the PITA sycamore tree outside our house whose roots back up our sewer and whose gangly limbs scare me ever since one fell through my car window; not being in college (a thought that crossed my mind as I watched Felicity via Netflix); the New Guy at work, because as much as I loved working with eager-to-learn interns, their impermanence in our office was a bit tiring; closely reading our new car insurance paperwork, during which I discovered that instead of taking Bryan’s old/dead car off our policy, they took off MY car, you know, the one I had been driving every single day (all fixed now–whew!); choosing to skip swimming in a crowded gym pool on Tuesday and going on Wednesday instead, because Evening Before Holiday = Empty Pool.
One Geeky Thing I’m
Totally Not Doing Right Now: Tracking PHL arrivals via FlightStats.com as airplanes fly over our house.
Before Setting Up FlightStats, I Totally Wasn’t: Planning out a hypothetical 2-day solo getaway to Disney World at Christmastime for next weekend.
Living Room Conversation Piece: This guy:
I Fear: that my cellphone is dying. I hate getting new phones, especially because they’re all smartphones now, and I’m 80 so that scares me.
TV Series Recently Completed on Netflix: Twin Peaks.
TV Series That Will Forever Give Me Backward-Talking Nightmares: Twin Peaks.
Non-Edible Products That Smell So Good I Kinda Want to Eat Them: pumpkin-scented soy candle from the farmers market (seriously, it makes the living room smell like a bakery for two days after it’s extinguished); gingerbread-scented Method countertop cleaner.
Approximate Weight of the Newspapers + Black Friday Circulars Sitting on the Kitchen Table: 3 pounds.
Gatherings and Meet-Ups This Weekend: Thanksgiving dinner with Bryan’s family; breakfast meetup at the diner with 3 high school friends; holiday tree lighting with my favorite toddler ever and her parents; burritos and margaritas with our favorite double-date couple; and Thanksgiving weekend breakfast with my family.
Silly Photos From Said Meet-Ups:
Nonsensical Notes From Last Friday’s 5Rhythms With Some Explanation in Parentheses: synchronicity (I asked the universe for a certain dancer to attend class, and the universe obliged); traveling amoeba (we all huddled as a group, back-to-back/side-to-side and just allowed our little jumble to move around the room on its own accord, like a traveling amoeba); tipping point from subtle to full-blown run-around-the-room Chaos, unleashing! (because sometimes I start Chaos with very small and subtle movements and then out of nowhere, there’s a tipping point of energy, and I go from standing in place to leaping across the studio as though I’ve been thrown over the edge of a cliff).
One Day I Will Totally Write About: the yoga workshop I took last week with Rudy Peirce.
Today marked my first-ever guest post (ever!) on this World Wide Web thingeroo. I typed it all up in my own WordPress account and then scratched my head and thought, “Hmm, now how do I get this to the hosting blog??” Clearly, I am a novice. 🙂
Appropriately, the post is over at the Healthy Disney site, which combines my two passions: Disney and health! (Many thanks to Pete for letting me know about its existence!) In my first guest post, I write about my experience swimming laps in our pool at the Wilderness Lodge.
Read the post here!
I haven’t blogged in a while but it’s not because I’ve been living in a vacuum. Stuff has happened, thoughts and ponderings have crossed my mind, but the truth is that I’ve just chosen to censor myself and make y’all believe that I’m living some crazy-awesome-busy life and just don’t have the time to document it.
It’s not really fair for myself or for those who read my blog to write only about the good things in life, the times where I have triumphed, learned a lesson, and moved on with clarity and newfound wisdom. Because, for real, that’s only half of the picture. My husband and I recently started Netflixing Twin Peaks, and what we’re learning is that there’s more to one person than what meets the eye. Not that I have any Laura Palmer-type secrets lying around, but I do have days that I don’t do yoga, don’t dance, act cranky, and forget to breathe. I have days that I mentally scold someone for starting every morning with a complaint and then I come home to my husband and complain about all the complaining. Sometimes I just don’t want to blog, tweet, or decipher the cryptogram that is now Facebook. There are times that I start the day blasting LMFAO in the living room and dancing circles around my husband and then shun him for the rest of the afternoon for no good reason (i.e., today).
One of the take-home lessons I learned during my experience at Kripalu was to acknowledge both the light as well as the shadows. Kripalu is a popular yoga and wellness retreat center now, but several years ago it suffered a PR nightmare when the resident guru was accused of performing unyogic acts with his disciples. Instead of keeping this “secret” under rug swept, my YTT teachers were open about the scandal; they were acknowledging the darker side–the shadows–of the institution. Expanding this philosophy to a personal level, it means to sit not only in your prouder moments but to face your darker ones as well. When the sun is shining and your heart is singing, breathe it all in. When the clouds are black and your heart hurts, breathe it all in.
One of my shadows of late has been my complete and utter lack of energy. It started last month when I could barely finish a 5Rhythms class. Even with being mindful of my movement and using the wall and floor for support at times, I kept sneaking glances at the clock, wondering why on earth this 2-hour class felt like 5. I felt like I was running on fumes, and instead of floating home in a state of post-dance bliss, I kind of just trudged my way into bed. Swimming, my second favorite activity next to dancing, also became a labor of love. Suddenly my normal 30-minute workout sessions were no longer achievable, and I’d call time after 20, 25 if I had coffee beforehand.
Even Disney World, my happiest and the happiest place on earth, couldn’t snap me from my stupor. I know it’s natural to wear yourself out after a day in the parks, but a seasoned Disney World fan girl shouldn’t be caught looking like this in the middle of the day.
After a month of this nonsense as well as some other health-related issues, I finally went to my doctor. A lot of my symptoms were pointing directly at the thyroid as the culprit, and my bloodwork sealed the deal. When I got my thyroid levels tested 2 years ago, they were right on the cusp of hypothyroidism; now, they are most definitely in that territory. I know there is all kinds of controversy out there about what the “correct” reference range is for TSH levels, but mine exceed anything I’ve found online and would certainly explain the uncharacteristic feelings of blah I’ve been experiencing.
Because hypothyroidism affects mood and mental focus as well, perhaps that can explain my mini-mental breakdown last week, when I was left completely incapable of making the decision whether or not to accompany my husband to Philly for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half-Marathon expo. The day before I was all “Yeah! This will be fun! Philly! Athletic gear! Lunch in the city!” Saturday morning, however, was a different story. I knew I needed to study for a work-related exam I was taking the next day, and I was afraid going to Philly would cut into my cram time. Instead of deciding (a) OK, I should really stay home to study; or (b) I can go to Philly, study on the train, and at home when we return, my brain went like this: &**&^&%^$&#$%%&*(*&*!!!!! It was like PMS from hell, complete with crying, sobbing, and throwing of clothes (and punches…in the air). The thing was, I didn’t have PMS; it was a perfectly neutral part of the month. I had checked my calendar just to make sure and was even more upset when I knew I couldn’t blame womanly hormones for my hot mess of a breakdown. It felt like the decision-making part of my brain just shut off, and I was faced with two options that both seemed great and terrible at the same time. And I’m not talking about the latte-versus-frappuccino indecision you face on a 60-degree day in March, but rather a complete numbness of the ability to say yes or no and accept that decision.
(In case you’re wondering, after much consolation from my husband, a shower, and me “working it out” through about 30 minutes of tears, I finally decided to go to Philly and then studied at home that night.)
On a lighter note (meaning, I’m not going to blame my thyroid for this), one of my other recent shadows has been my reaction to the news of Disney planning to open an AVATAR land in the Animal Kingdom park. If it were April, I would have totally thought this was some kind of April Fools joke, but this is for real! I’ve never seen Avatar, but even if it’s super-awesome, does it really require an entire land? At first I was upset that they agreed to partner with a non-Disney movie, but then people brought up Star Wars and Indiana Jones and The Muppets, and OK, I get it, but the key difference here is attraction versus LAND. Also, Animal Kingdom is such a pure park; if Disney is really pushing for this Avatar nonsense, it should build it in Hollywood Studios and reserve any extra space in Animal Kingdom for a future Australia. I cried to Bryan that after him and dancing, Disney is my passion and that any news about a potentially disastrous business decision affects me to the core. I eased up a bit after reading this relatively positive outlook of the Avatar endeavor but then fell back into my sinkhole of misery after reading this one.
Whatever happens, I just hope Animal Kingdom doesn’t face this fate come 2016 or 2018 or whenever everyone has forgotten about Avatar:
OK, I just exposed my shadows. Anything you need to come clean about?
So it’s been about one week since I left my happy place.
Not gonna lie…it hasn’t been easy. Despite this being my 12th trip to Walt Disney World (and 13th Disney trip, if you count last year’s Disneyland), I still come home with a bad case of PDD (post-Disney depression) that leaves me unable to watch Disney commercials or listen to Disney music for a solid month without immediately tearing up. Coming home from vacation is hard enough, but when you’re going from a land of pixie dust and parades and nightly fireworks to, well, New Jersey, it’s slightly more difficult than just returning from a week down the shore.
Because it’s geographically and financially unfeasible to visit my #1 happy place on a regular basis, I’ve spent the past week trying to figure out where my closer-to-home happy places are, places that don’t require airline tickets and a week off from work. They may not include all the bells and whistles (and parades and fireworks) of Disney World, but they make me smile and are my go-to places when I need some everyday magic.
Happy Place #1: My Living Room Floor
Although I absolutely loved our rustic-feeling hotel room at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, it was very tight on space and I had little room to do my morning/evening stretches and wake-up routine. Sun salutations took place in the narrow entrance way between the bathroom and the closet, and to do viparita karani (legs on the wall) at night (a necessity after days of walking anywhere from 8 to 16 miles), I had to squeeze myself between the TV cabinet and table, the only wall space available.
At home, the living room floor is my stretching oasis, the place I go to every morning to twist and stretch and rock and roll. I can do downdogs and warriors without banging my hands into the wall or on the ceiling lamp, and I can lie on the floor in cobra without being skeeved out about who (or what) was on the carpet before me.
In addition, my living room allows me the space to DANCE! 🙂
Happy Place #2: Poang Chairs
When I’m not dancing or rolling around in my living room, I’m seated comfortably in one of our IKEA Poang chairs, in front of the TV.
I’m not particularly a fan of the boob-tube, but I do love our Netflix subscription that allows us to watch streaming shows and movies via our Nintendo Wii system.
Instead of watching TV shows in real-time, Bryan and I have instead been plowing through entire series of shows through Netflix streaming. That way we don’t have to wait weeks in-between episodes or feel like we lost 6 years of our life if a show ends badly (::coughcoughLOSTcoughcough::). Most recently, we completed the 202 episodes of 24, a series that had us glued to the Poangs for months. I became very attached to the characters and screamed, shouted, and cried along with them. It was a very emotional ending, almost as heart-wrenching as leaving Disney World! Mickey Mouse, Jack Bauer…I love you both!
Netflix is also my source for rare, hard-to-find movies and documentaries. Sure, I’ll watch Tangled the week I return from the World (gotta catch up on my Disney princess knowledge), but this same week I’ve also watched Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead (Christmas is less than 100 days away…juicer, please?!), half of the PBS special Doctors’ Diaries, and–OMG, the cutest movie in the world–Gotta Dance.
Remember that documentary a few years ago, Young @ Heart, the one about the group of seniors who sing contemporary music? Well, this is the same thing…but with DANCE. The movie documents the inaugural season of the NETsationals dance team, a group of 13 seniors ages 59 to 83 who dance hip hip for the New Jersey Nets (in the photo above, their jersey numbers indicate their age). A few had amateur dancing experience (ballroom, tap), some had danced recreationally, and none had ever done hip hop before. These folks are living proof that age is just a number and old dogs CAN learn new tricks. Heartwarming, uplifting, inspirational…this movie a shot of the warm and fuzzy feel-goods without the overly sappy chicken noodle soup for the soul. I stood on my feet and applauded the TV during their first live performance! I could watch this again and again–and probably will.
Happy Place #3: Red Bank Battlefield
I am fortunate to live near several parks (all very nice, too!), but my favorite by far is Red Bank. It’s a national park, so it’s well kept and clean; it attracts a lot of cute older couples (I once witnessed an older husband and wife unwrap a particularly challenging Werther’s Original candy together); and, being directly across the Delaware River from the Philly airport, there are PLANES! Lots of them! As I’ve written again and again, I am obsessed with plane watching. I will say I don’t care, but then I’ll hear the roar of a jet engine, and immediately my eyes go to the sky. I’m particularly fond of Southwest jets (one, they represent our transportation to Florida; two, they are the most colorful of the liveries), cargo jets (HUUUUGE!), and planes that are taking off in my direction.
Sometimes I’ll go to the park before work (quiet and peaceful), other times after work (more traffic but interesting characters), and sometimes on the weekend with Bryan for reading-under-a-tree time. A loop around the park is a little over a mile, and nowadays you can almost always spot a deer or three, which have become acclimated to human beings and don’t even bat an eyelash when you’re walking their way. The other morning I walked past six deer (including two males with giant antlers), one only inches from me!
It’s a good thing I appreciate the solitude of the park in the morning, because soon that’s the only time I’ll be able to go; the park closes at sunset, and as I much as I pray that it won’t happen, there will come a time this year that I leave work and it’s dark out. Where to go when my Disney World closes at dusk?!
So those are my non-Disney World happy places, accessible within minutes. If I’m willing to drive a little longer and pack a few more things, next on the list are (a) my gym, for a solo swimming session; (b) the yoga studio, for a 5Rhythms class; and (c) the Jersey shore!
What places do you return to when you need some magic?
I’m in Disney World right now, but as I mentioned in this post, I wanted to share with you the yamas of a yoga practice and how they can be applied to all of life’s experiences, even a weeklong trip to the Mouse House. Read on for a breakdown of the final three!
Yama #3: Asteya
“Asteya, or ‘not stealing,’ refers to the stealing that grows from believing we cannot create what we need. We steal because we misperceive the universe as lacking abundance or we think that there is not enough for everyone and that we will not receive in proportion to our giving.”
Even though you want Stitch all to yourself at the Club 626 dance party, remember to share him with the kiddies.
Chip and Dale need a lesson in asteya: It’s not very nice to steal your fellow chipmunk’s gal.
Fun fact: Stitch is WDW’s the biggest asteya offender. Watch all loose objects; Stitch WILL steal!
Yama #4: Brahmacharya
This is a tough one to grasp, so I’m posting a slightly longer explanation: “Brahmacharya reminds us that our life force is both limited and precious, and sexual activity is one of the quickest ways to deplete it…. We can teach brahmacharya by helping our students learn to use the minimum energy to achieve the maximum result. Teach them not to use small muscles to do the work of large muscles, and to bring their minds into the poses so that their bodies do not become fatigued.”
The concept of brahmacharya is sexually rooted, but, as noted above, it can also mean not letting your body loose control in an effort to enjoy something.
Ever go on a roller coaster and scream your brains out just to be silly? With all that yelling, waving, hooting, and hollering, you may lose out on the true experience of the ride, and it will all go by in a flash.
Stay in the moment and feel the experience of loosing control, while keeping your mind and senses engaged. Enjoy every second of that lift up the hill and breathe in the joy of the final descent.
Yama #5: Aparigraha
“Aparigraha means not coveting what isn’t ours. It is different from asteya, which asks us to avoid stealing that is motivated by a greed springing from a perceived lack of abundance. Aparigraha is the greed that is rooted in jealousy…. Rather than finding who we are, we look at someone else and say, ‘I want to be that.’ Aparigraha, in its essence, helps us discover our own selves so that we no longer feel the need to covet what someone else has, or be what someone else is.”
Don’t compare yourself to others, even if you think Walt Disney should have picked a lobster for his sidekick instead of a freakin’ mouse.
Remember to enjoy the entertainment at Disney World, rather than dwell on the fact that you will never, ever be a Disney dancer, despite your lifelong dream of wanting to be THAT girl.
Remember your own accomplishments instead of trying to stand in someone else’s shoes.
Note: I had every intention of writing up a similar post on the five niyamas before I left, but then I forgot that I needed a proper rain jacket for what looks to be a mildly damp week in Florida, so my jaunt out to L.L. Bean totally sucked up my blogging time!
On that note, I have to remember the niyama of samtosha (contentment) and accept that I’ve done all that I can physically do before heading out. Namaste!
I’m in Disney World right now, but I was sure to pack my yamas. (It’s cool, the TSA allows a maximum of five.)
As I wrote about in my previous post, it’s very possible to practice yoga without stepping on a mat. The physical form of yoga we all know and love–asana–is just one limb of eight that comprise the complete practice. Yamas is one of those other limbs, and it refers to measures of self-restraint. As Aadil Palkhivala states in his wonderfully written article, “the five yamas–kindness, truthfulness, abundance, continence, and self-reliance–are oriented toward our public behavior and allow us to coexist harmoniously with others.” Paired with the niyamas (another limb that includes five elements), the yamas are very much like a Ten Commandments for the yoga world.
Palkhivala’s article (which I’ll quote throughout this post) is very well written for those who are curious how to incorporate the yamas into their physical practice and puts these esoteric Sanskrit terms into everyday context. But how does one appreciate and practice the yamas while standing in line for 30 minutes to ride Space Mountain, like I’m doing now?
Yama #1: Ahimsa
“Ahimsa traditionally meant ‘do not kill or hurt people.’ This can be extrapolated to mean that we should not be violent in feelings, thoughts, words, or actions. At root, ahimsa means maintaining compassion towards yourself and others. It means being kind and treating all things with care.”
Ahimsa means keeping your cool, even when this kid throws a temper tantrum for 45 minutes straight while waiting for the afternoon parade to begin at Hollywood Studios. Ahimsa is what keeps us from flipping out on the parents, who look the other way and laugh as their boy wails loud enough to be heard over at Epcot.
Forcing your spouse into drinking the “Beverly” soft drink over at Epcot’s Coca-Cola Club Cool strays from ahimsa. We all know it tastes like sh*t, and it’s not very nice to torture each other for the sake of a funny photo.
On a more serious note, it’s easy to get overwhelmed at Disney World and want to cram everything into the day. When the body asks for some rest, accept it. Besides, that’s what the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover, railroad, monorail, and the train to Rafiki’s Planet Watch are for.
Lastly, no matter how much fun a ride is, don’t overdo it. Remember self-compassion–ahimsa–and stick to no more than three consecutive rides on the teacups. Two if you’ve just eaten.
Yama #2: Satya
“Satya means ‘truth,’ or ‘not lying.’ Practicing satya means being truthful in our feelings, thoughts, and words, and deeds. It means being honest with ourselves and with others.”
Satya means withholding from telling your mate that the Beverly drink tastes “Awesome! You gotta try it!” (see above).
Satya means it’s OK to not really like the Hall of Presidents, to think Mission: Space is eh, or ::gasp:: to admit that the Carousel of Progress should be next on the chopping block. (The latter was really hard to write, but that’s the point of satya–be true to your feelings, despite the discomfort it may cause.)
Satya is being truthful about one’s obsession with Stitch and never playing down her love of the big blue alien, despite being a grown-up.
There are three more yamas that should be in your carry-on before any vacation, but you’ll have to wait until Thursday for the full Disney-fied breakdown. Stay tuned, and see ya real soon!
Ahhh, September. The start of National Yoga Month. Yet as all my fellow downward dawgs unfurl their mats to begin a month of celebration, contemplation, and meditation, I’m leaving my asana behind in New Jersey and heading to a land of not one but FOUR mountain poses: Space, Big Thunder, Splash, and Everest.
As the old saying goes, “I’m going to Disney World!”
Although I’ll still do a few hotel room sun salutations in the morning and most likely prop my achy legs up into Viparita Karani after a long day walking around World Showcase, the truth is that–for me–this first week of National Yoga Month will probably include very little yoga.
Well…let me rephrase that. It will probably include very little PHYSICAL yoga.
Unless you’re a yoga teacher, long-time student, or someone very devoted to the tenets of yoga philosophy, your vision of yoga is most likely the ol’ headstand-in-the-middle-of-the-room, foot-behind-the-head variety. The vision of yoga that makes you say, “I’m not flexible; I can’t do yoga.” The kind of yoga that requires a sticky mat, some kind of Lycra wardrobe, and either an instructional DVD or a gym membership.
But here’s the thing: That kind of yoga is only 1/8 of the practice.
The physical postures of yoga that we’re all most familiar with–termed asana in Sanskrit–is just one serving of a multiple-course meal. I didn’t know this myself until I had been taking yoga classes for about a year and was interested enough to pick up an issue of Yoga Journal, but it made sense. What had started as me taking some classes at my gym to improve my balance and flexibility gradually turned into something bigger. I felt kinder toward others after doing yoga. I developed a deeper appreciation of my body after doing yoga. I felt compelled to sit in silence and meditate and breathe after doing yoga.
Asana was the key into this wide world of yoga, a practice of not only physical postures but seven other “limbs”:
• Yamas (ethical restraints).
• Niyamas (personal observances).
• Pranayama (breath control).
• Pratyahara (sense withdrawal/control).
• Dharana (concentration/inner perceptual awareness).
• Dhyana (devotion, meditation).
• Samadhi (union with the divine).
So, as you can see, asana is just a sliver of lunchmeat in this extra-long hoagie we call yoga, which means it is very possible to still do yoga while walking the dog, doing the dishes, grocery shopping, or traveling.
I’ll never forget the way yoga became my best friend during my 3-week trip to China and Tibet in 2006. I didn’t touch a yoga mat for 21 days and never once had the floor space to even get into Downdog, but the emotional aspect of yoga, pranayama, and lovingkindness meditation completely enriched the adventure. There were so many times I could’ve gone ape sh*t, cried hysterically, or lost it completely, but I’m certain that the mental clarity and focus I cultivated from my then 2 years of asana yoga practice got me through it all and let me go with the flow–even our three days on the
pirate ship garbage barge Chinese cruise ship, where stowaways, cockroaches, and the residue of an uncleaned communal squat toilet punctuated our sweaty 72 hours out on the Yangtze.
Will I be doing Bakasana in the middle of Main Street, USA next week? Probably not. (Although man, that would make an awesome photo…!) Will I be doing yoga? You bet! In fact, I’m pretty sure I can apply all of the 10 yamas and niyamas to life inside the Magic Kingdom, and, as part of YIOM’s observance of National Yoga Month, I hope to blog about it. See what others have to say about the 8 limbs of yoga here…and then go out on a limb and see how you can incorporate a little slice of yoga lunchmeat into your life. 🙂