Monday, September 28, 2015

Notice the moon.

What might happen?
If the shelving for the new bathrooms isn't built on time?
If the art isn't all hung?
If there is not enough cheese at the party?
If I don't have time to make the brownies?
If the ballet bar doesn't get rehung?
If I don't have time to set up the desk?
If my cold gets worse and worse and worse and I lose my voice and I can't teach on our first day open?

These are all thoughts that interrupted me as I mediated this morning at 5:00am. I can't sleep. I can't fall asleep and I can't stay asleep. At times like this I remind myself to be grateful for those nights where I can go into that deep warm tunnel of slumber. I'll get back there soon I hope, but right now that place is very, very elusive.

My thoughts, the plague of perfection, are the reason Yoga is so important to me. For me, Yoga is like a squeegee that wipes away all of the writing on a wipe board at the end (or the beginning) of the day. Mental floss, many people call it.

What I miss when my brain, my life, become so encumbered with these thoughts, is the wholeness of life. Like yesterday morning when I was hanging the mirrors at the studio and my friend Kate called to ask if I thought a Halloween game of Capture the Flag in a cemetery was weird. I was too crazed to answer the call, but when I listened to her message later, I thought how fun it would have been to talk about that idea with her.

Or last night at 7:00pm when I was scrubbing the men's dressing room floors and Nancy called to remind me to look at the blood moon. I raced through my cleaning to go outside. I drove like a maniac home to get to a place where I could see it. By the time I finally got to enjoy the majesty of the moon we only see once every 18 years, I was agitated and exhausted. Seeing the moon was like one more thing to check off my list.

So what would happen if I didn't get any of that stuff done? I would disappoint people. I would disappoint myself. I would feel angry at the contractor who I adore for failing me. I would fear the anger from my students for not having my shit together. But the world would go on. No one would miss the brownies or the cheese.

It goes back to the lesson I try to teach daily in Yoga. "Do your best." If I shake things up and talk to myself like I would talk to my 10-year old daughter, I would be so much more compassionate, loving, forgiving.  "Lucia," I would say, "did you try your best?" I would reach out my arms and pull her towards me and sit her long legs sideways across mine and let her put her head on my shoulder. "Yes," she'd say. And we'd sit like that for a while, letting that idea sink in.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Yom Kippur

Today is Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. I am what you might call Jewish-ish. My mother is not Jewish so that makes me unofficial to lots of folks. But my dad was Jewish and my stepmother and stepfather are both Jewish. I've related culturally to Judaism for the bulk of my life. I celebrate sporadically most holidays, except for Yom Kippur.

I always fast on this day, no matter what else going on. My partner Nancy jokingly says I fast because I have remnants of an adolescent eating disorder. But it's not that. It's so much more. In my life challenge to get conscious, to be present, to live in the moment, there is a great tangibility to those struggles when I fast.

If I were a truly observant Jew, I would not be working today. I would not be writing or going to Yoga in an hour. The one thing I do is fast. During many many moments of the day, I feel myself hungry and then I am reminded that today I will not eat until sundown. This prompts me to think about what I have done in the year behind me that I wish I had done differently or better. Ways I could have acted kinder or more generously. Times when I could have listened more whole-heartedly to my partner or my child or my friends or my employees.

I do not self- flagellate on this day. I reflect. I notice those hungry moments and take in the thoughts that accompany them.  I make commitments for the future. I will not respond to texts during dinner. I will wait a few more minutes before answering that heated email. I will always say "I love you" when I can.

Tonight we will have a Break Fast, when we celebrate at sundown by eating together. This is another beautiful moment for me on this day. Most days I eat on the run or sporadically, unconsciously. Yesterday, after 8 hours of work, before another 3, I grabbed a bar from my glove box and plowed on. Tonight when I eat, it will be different. The anticipation of the first bite, the sensation of swallowing, the joy in eating together with people I love, are all moments that I often miss, being present, conscious, awake.

Life will continue on as normal tomorrow, hopefully with some residual memory of where I am today. These hours of fasting will change me a little bit. I will be in the world a little more alert, engaged.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

We're Molting

I've been regularly posting photos of The SweatBox remodel on Facebook to keep people in the know about where we are in the process. Today one of our regular students Carlo commented on a photo I posted with "You're molting." 

This process of recreating one of the most important spaces in my world has been fun, creative, and exciting. It's also been GRUELING. I feel like there's a pinball machine living in my head and there is unlimited play. I find closure on one idea (floor color will be Merlot), another one comes, bounces around for a while, and is then replaced and replaced and replaced. It shouldn't surprise me. I've done more remodels that most normal people-- big ones, small ones, business ones, home ones. They're all taxing, but in the end, incredibly rewarding.
The comment Carlo made, "You're molting" gave me a new lens in which to see this renovation process. To "MOLT", according to Wikipedia:

"In biologymolting , also known as sloughingshedding, or in many invertebratesecdysis, is the manner in which an animal routinely casts off a part of its body (often, but not always, an outer layer or covering), either at specific times of the year, or at specific points in its life cycle.

Yes! We are shedding our old skin, even different body parts and making room for the new-- new energy, new floors, new paint. But what also speaks to me in this Wikipedia definition is the idea of a life cycle. The SweatBox is 14 years old. Full on puberty. This makes sense. We're finding our voice, forging our path, creating our independence. 

As we do when we move from middle school to high school, we are casting off the stagnancy of our awkward junior high years and deciding who we want to be now.  I remember the time in my own life. No more quilted Japanese jackets courtesy of my grandfather's travels to Asia. No more Danish sweaters (from my mom's childhood trunk). I would choose my own 1980s style- berets and double belts, lots of ear piercings. Thank God I've moved on from that style!

It's exciting, this molting. I imagine how much energy goes into a Hermit crab sloughing it's shell and then having to rebuild a new exoskeleton. That's what's happening now at The SweatBox. We've molted- shed the old, and are steadily creating our new home.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Make space to become creative.

When the Seattle Public School teachers started grumbling about a strike a few days before school started I talked to my teacher friend Kate about it. She schooled me on some of the issues, one of them being a decent amount of recess. Actually the teachers are only asking for a half-hour of recess which, if you ask me, isn't really decent, but it's a lot better than nothing.

We are heading into the fifth day of a Seattle Public Schools strike and, while I am getting a bit nervous, maybe even slightly scared of what will come, I fully support the plight of the teachers for more money, more control over testing and evaluation, and more RECESS. We don't think about recess much as adults. We grow up and it's time to go to work. Most of us squeeze in play time and don't give ourselves much of a chance to let loose and shake off our worries like we used to on the playground during recess.

I recently listened to a podcast by a neuropsychologist named Rex Jung who studies creativity. We cannot be in a constant state of knowledge acquisition, he says. We need to give our brain a chance to check out a bit, to have recess, in order to spread out and open up, to put things together. This is how creativity comes to us.

The teachers' strike comes at an interesting time for me. I planned The SweatBox remodel during this first week of school, after a busy summer filled with child care duties, knowing that I'd have lots of time to be at the studio-- working, planning, organizing, getting shit done. And I am, but this strike, and some of the teachers' motivation behind it, reminds me that part of getting my brain into a state of creativity-- making the new schedule, choosing the best paint colors, placing the art--- means shutting it off a little bit too.

During most of the year I use my Yoga practice as my recess. Or I go for a run. But when I'm very busy, like when I'm cramming a pretty significant renovation into 10 days, those practices fall away. "This is time limited," I tell myself. "After a week I'll be back to my regular activities. I can hunker down and be all in for this remodel until it's done. " I can do that, but should I? After hearing that podcast and listening to the teachers' share their passion for balanced learning through this strike, I'm pretty sure it's not the best approach for me.

On Thursday the contractors are grinding down the floors of the studio. It will be messy and loud. Today Darrell, my wonderful, very creative contractor said, "Laura, on Thursday and Friday it's going to be chaotic as hell in here. Take your daughter and go to the ocean. Turn your brain off and don't think about this project for a few days." That sounds like a really good idea. Unless, of course, there's school.....

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Best is Yet to Come

In 2012, after many years of avoiding and side-stepping, Barak Obama made the public statement that he was in favor of legalizing gay marriage. It is a rare moment when a very public figure declares, with grace and humility, that he has evolved, changed, grown. Obama's public acknowledgment was a humble gift to his public. It wasn't just his proclamation that he changed his opinion that touched so many; it was his public acknowledgment that he had evolved. Ultimately after the Supreme Court decision in June 2015, Obama came out in exultant celebration of legalized gay marriage.

"Progress on this journey often comes in small increments, sometimes two steps forward, one step back, propelled by the persistent effort of dedicated citizens," he said. "And then sometimes, there are days like this when that slow, steady effort is rewarded with justice that arrives like a thunderbolt."

That famous moment in time changed the lives of millions. 
Why did Obama change his mind? What small experiences in his life led him to open his heart and face his fears? Did he meet one person who radically changed his perspective? Or was it incremental, like he suggested, "two steps forward, one step back," lots of little experiences that ultimately shifted his perspective? I'm not sure it matters. When people open their minds to new and different ideas, when they face their fears, change comes and good things happen.

For the last two decades, Yoga has occupied a significant place in my heart and in my mind. I have deep gratitude for the way my practice has grounded me. For the past few years though, my Yoga has started to feel less like grounding and more like an anchor; I have noticed myself feeling stuck. I still love it, and I feel myself going through an evolution. A dedicated Bikram practitioner for over twenty years, I have found myself questioning my loyalty to a single practice, wondering if I am doing justice to myself and my students by practicing and offering just one style of Yoga. It is not that I have fallen out of favor with the practice. No way. I love the Yoga and I feel grateful that my 46-year-old knees can do the things they do. I thank my Bikram practice for that.

My personal perspective vis-a-vis Yoga has been to keep it safe, familiar-- Bikram Yoga is what I do. Bikram Yoga is what I know. And so, like Obama, I have clung tightly to what I know, what feels safe and free of conflict. My evolution has come in the form of many little baby steps of curiosity. What else is out there? Who else is wandering the streets of this amazingly Yoga saturated city? What are the students learning? What are the teachers saying? And so I began exploring. I went on my own Yoga adventure. It was scary at first to dive into this new world. I took lots of different classes, talked to different teachers, dipped my toes in the scary waters  of  "What if?" 
And here's what I've found. Like Obama, I take two steps forward--Vinyasa Flow is hard and fun! And one step back-- I need my Bikram to keep my knees healthy and my hips open. Hot Fusion is so efficient. But Bikram lets me really relax mentally. And with every new Yoga experience I have (and there are a lot of choices out there!), I find my perspective shifting. I want my home practice, my stable, grounding, familiar Bikram practice. And I want more. The world of Yoga has grown in leaps and bounds. The community has gone from itty bitty to ginormous in the past two decades. 

What I teach my students every day when I am at the front of the class guiding them is to take risks, to have adventure, to be open. And so here I sit, writing this proclamation of my own, acknowledging that I have had a closed mind, that I have been afraid. In my recent Yoga adventure I've seen so many great things, Bikram Yoga included. How will the future of The SweatBox look? Of course we'll maintain our regular amazing classes and teachers; changes will be slow and steady.The beautiful bright cherry red door that opens into The SweatBox will still open into The SweatBox. Who we are fundamentally will not change. We will always be caring, compassionate, knowledgeable teachers, committed to our students. But our door will be open a little bit wider, making room for new ideas, new visions. And if you're scared, tentative about the changes, I want you to know that I get it. I've been there. I still go there. But my mind is open now and it feels good! Remember your daily Yoga practice--everyday is different; it is a process that never ends. As we move into the future SweatBox, remind yourself that we are all a part of this process of discovery. Where this journey will take us isn't clear. If it was, it wouldn't be a journey. One thing I know for sure is that the best is yet to come. 

Work Life Balance

Yesterday while I was working I thought to myself, “I could do this all day long!” And that’s a good thing because that was the plan. I rece...