Judge For Yourself 

You are the subject. Everything else in your world is an object. Everything, and everyone.

You are always the subject, and you interact with the objects in your world. As the subject, you are also the judge. You judge every object in your world. Every moment of your existence holds a possible judgment.

You pick up an apple. You feel it in your hand. It feels smooth. You open your mouth and use the force of your jaw to take a bite. Your mouth waters. You begin to chew. Your ears hear the crunching. Your mind judges the taste. ‘This apple is delicious!’ 

You look out over the horizon. The sun is setting. You breathe in the air. You notice the swirling colors. Pink, purple, blue, orange. Your mind judges the sight. ‘What a gorgeous sunset!’ 

A couple passes by. They are wearing light, flowing clothes. They are strolling with ease, holding hands and smiling. They have well proportioned bodies and symmetrical facial features. Your mind judges them. ‘What a beautiful couple!’ 

You see a trash can. It is overflowing with garbage. There is garbage on the ground all around it. There is a group of teenagers nearby. Your mind judges the scene. ‘What an awful mess! Who would do that?’ 

You see a woman. She is walking down the street. She is wearing high heels, yellow leggings and a tube top, She has thick legs, cellulite, a protruding belly. Your mind judges her. ‘Get a load of this one!’ 

You’re spending time with a dear friend. They aren’t feeling well. They tell you their troubles. The prognosis is unfavorable. You try to lift their spirits. ‘I’m so sorry you’re going through this.’ 

You are watching the news. The anchorman is saying words. The footage of the scene is playing in the background. Your mind is judging the broadcast. ‘This is bullshit! Absolute bullshit!’

Every person, place, thing, that you come in contact with is an object of your world. You alone decide how you will judge those people, places and things. You have three basic choices for that judgment: positive, negative, and neutral. 

During the course of a day you have thousands of neutral interactions. Thousands. But most of those goes unnoticed. 

The interactions we judge as positive cause us to feel pleasure. We can hold on to that pleasure and carry it with us for a while. How long can you draw pleasure from an apple or a sunset?

The interactions we judge as negative cause us to feel frustration, anger, sadness, resentment, envy… We can hold on to those emotions and carry them with us for a while. How long can you carry anger, frustration, sadness, disgust? 

Part of a yoga practice is non-judgment. The first step towards non-judgment is noticing all of the judgments that we do make. The practice of noticing can lead to the practice of pausing. When we pause, we are less quick to pass judgment. With daily practice, the pauses grow longer and longer. Eventually, non-judgment may be achieved. 

As you move through the day, notice how you choose to judge objects, situations, people. Make a mental note of all of the neutral moments. Begin to label those neutral moments as non-negative.

Notice how quickly you judge things as good or bad, and see if you can take a pause before passing final judgment. Begin to understand which judgments you choose to carry around with you, and how long you hold them. 

Try to find just a few moments in your day where you can sit quietly, and pass no judgment at all. 

*****

******

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Cut It Out

When my brother and I were young, my parents were always telling us to ‘cut it out’.
Tsk. Cut it out. Sigh.
Just cut it out, would ya?
Cut it out, I said! 

When we heard this, we were supposed to stop the bad behavior. Immediately. Maybe we were making too much noise, too much mess, too much drama, too much stress. Whatever it was that we were doing was somehow proving toxic to the parental environment. I completely understand the sentiment now, because I tell my kids to cut stuff out. All the time.
 
Do you know the origin of the phrase? The etymology? Maybe it has something to do with a bad stretch of fabric? Or mold growing on cheese? Eyes on potatoes? The live wire in a bomb? Where did it come from?  If you know, please tell me. I’ve been thinking about it since Tuesday when I met with my breast surgeon. She is literally going to cut it out for me.
 
My boobs are currently like ticking time bombs, moldy cheese, poorly dyed wool, misbehaving children… The only logical thing to do, is to cut out the toxic offenders.

It’s an easy decision when cancer is involved. Just cut it out!  If your appendix is poisoning you? Just cut it out. If your gall bladder is full of stones. If delivering your breech baby is going to kill you…You get the picture. Life and death. You make a decision. No hemming and hawing. Just cut that shit out.

What about the things that are killing us ever so slowly? We all have toxic habits, behaviors, relationships, thought patterns.  Even if we are self aware enough to know these things are doing damage, we can’t just have them surgically removed. (Lobotomies are frowned upon). These things have to be released slowly, carefully, mindfully, and willfully. 

When I started practicing yoga it was the first time in my life that I really focused on my breath.  I learned to make my exhales longer than my inhales. As I did this, I trained my body to let go of more than I was taking on. This allowed me to make more space in my life. I started letting go of things that weren’t necessary. I even quit smoking without realizing that I was quitting.
 
Then I started meditating. And I faced my monkey head on. Whenever thoughts popped into my head that were unnecessary I let them go. I practiced releasing toxic ideas with every exhale. On the days when the monkey was particularly obnoxious I told him to cut it out.

Tsk. Come on now, monkey. Cut it out. Back to the breath.
 
I started treating the monkey in my head like I treat my children. If my kid was saying some of the ridiculous crap that the monkey was saying I’d certainly tell them to cut it out.
 
If your child were saying things like ‘I’m not good enough’, you would tell them to cut it out. If they were saying that everything was awful and their life was shit, and they didn’t deserve success, you would tell them to cut it out. If they were slowly killing their self with drugs, alcohol, and risky behavior, you would tell them to cut it out. Wouldn’t you? I’d like to think we all would.

So, I adopted the monkey and trained him to cut out the toxic thoughts. Almost effortlessly, one by one, I have been releasing toxic behaviors from my life. I’m just cutting it all out.

It’s been much the same as cutting out a cancer. And I’m hoping that there is no recurrence.

I’m hoping I cut it out once and for all.

 

 

 

 

 

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In The Silence of the Snow

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Weather, or Not

Today we are snowed in, staring out the window at Winter Storm Stella. 

Tomorrow we will start the day off with a period of deep gratitude. It will be followed by a brief but overwhelming sense of joy. 

The peaceful feeling will carry us through the earliest part of the day. 

As the morning progresses, there is a good chance of scattered showers. 

Some of these showers will contain heavy disappointment, flashes of aggravation, and brief episodes of increasing sadness.

There may be a few moments of grief and sorrow, and an occasional mix of anger, confusion, and fear.

The storms will dissipate as quickly as they form, and will be followed by extended periods of fair weather, and increasing calm.  

The day will end with a few moments of deep satisfaction and contentment. 

You may be awoken in the middle of the night by the distant rumble of anxiety. But the panic and dread will remain off shore. 

Sleep soundly, taking comfort in the fact that tomorrow will be more of the same.

In fact the forecast calls for countless days of exactly the same weather for the foreseeable future. 

****


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Holding My Breath

Someone once told me that my blog posts are ‘positive as f@ck.’ She went so far as to imply that I’m an optimist. 

I don’t think I’m an optimist. I think I’m just happy to be alive. 

I don’t deny that the world has conspired to make me a pessimistic. It continues to throw just about everything it can at me. 

For some reason, call it luck, call it grace, I always choose to let the negativity float away.

It might be genetics. But I highly doubt that. 

I was raised by a bunch of cynics and skeptics. Nihilists and non-believers, who said things like ‘Don’t get your hopes up, you’re gonna die anyway.’ A clan of clinical depressives, destined to drown in a sea of hops and barley. 

I was pulled under a few times. Tossed by the tide. 

Once, when I was a teenager, I had a near death experience on the actual ocean floor. I had been swimming out just beyond the breakers and body surfing back in to the shallows. There were a lot of other people in the ocean that day, some body surfers, some people on rafts. 

I was treading water, enjoying the sunshine, waiting for a good wave. I saw a big one coming and I turned my back to it, and began swimming. I caught it just right and started sailing on the current, quickly towards the shore.  

All of a sudden I felt something press down on me. It pressed down on the entire length of my body. I realized it was a raft. Then I felt the sand pressing against me from below. 

I was stuck there between the raft and the sand, but still being moved by the force of the wave. The raft pressed down hard on me, my skin dragging on the sand.

I could die now. I thought. This could be it. 

I didn’t panic. I didn’t gasp for air that wouldn’t come. I didn’t fight. I must have had a moment of clarity, because I simply reached up and grabbed onto the sides of the raft that was holding me down, and I went with it. I gave in to the situation. I accepted it for exactly what it was, and I flowed along with it, holding my breath, for what felt like minutes. 

Eventually, it dropped me on the shore. My skin was red and raw from scraping against the sand and stones. 

I watched as the unsuspecting rafter paddled back out beyond the breakers. 

Propped up on my elbows. Breathing deeply. Much surer and much stronger than I had been five minutes before. 

And happy to be alive. 

******

******
When I feel like I’m drowning,
I trust in the tide.

******

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Cherry Blossom Time

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Metamorphosis

When you try to make big changes in your life people take notice.  If you stop doing things the way you’ve always done them, or start doing new things, people start to question your motives and intentions. Sometimes the questions arise from sheer curiosity, but sometimes the origins are much deeper.

When I was a teenager I stopped eating red meat. My grandmother kept trying to get me to eat her meatballs.
‘Have a meatball.’
‘No thanks, Grandma.’
‘But you always like my meatballs.’
‘No thanks, Grandma. Not today.’
‘What do you mean, not today?’
‘I’m not eating meat any more, Grandma.’
‘You’re what?! Not eating meat?! What do you mean not eating meat? What does she mean, no meat!?’

 

This was an Italian household in the 1980s. It was like I was stabbing her in the heart! She expected me to always eat her meatballs. How could I say no? This was a Sunday tradition? It’s not easy to move away from other people’s traditions and expectations. (For many years I would still eat the occasional meatball. Just to make Grandma happy.)

 

When I gave up beer for a month, everyone around me was very supportive. They teased me. They sent me photos of beers. Articles about beer. Film clips about beer. Tons of beer memes.  They’re a bunch of comedians, but they’re supportive comedians. When the month ended and I decided not to go back to beer things changed. Some people tried to get me to drink.
‘Come on. You can have just one!’
‘No thank you.’
‘Just one, come on! Don’t make me drink alone!’
‘I’m not making you drink alone.’
‘Ah, eventually you’ll drink again! You’ll be back. You’ll see.’
‘Yeah, okay. Maybe I will. We’ll see.’

 

People expect you to go back to the way you were. They need you to fit into your prescribed slot in their mind.

 

When my husband decided to hop on the wagon with me he got much worse from his peers. One night he was at a pub (drinking soda) with his coworkers (drinking beer). They kept offering to buy him a beer. He kept refusing.  After a few, the guys began tossing 100 dollar bills onto the bar, telling him he could have all the money if he had one drink. 700 dollars to have one drink. True story!

 

He didn’t take the money. But what the hell is that about? Why would they want him to fail? Is it schadenfreude? Is it envy ? Fear? What drives that behavior?

 

When I gave up sugar, people were constantly trying to feed me things.
‘Want some cake?
‘No thanks.’
‘Cookies?!’
‘No thanks.’
‘Some chips?’
‘No thanks, I gave up sugar.’
‘But it only has 3 grams of sugar in it. You can have it. You can have just one. It won’t kill you.’

 

What is the reason behind it? Why are they trying to make me eat sugar? I know it has nothing to do with me. Their reaction is all about them. What kind of reflection are they seeing in my behavior that makes them want to tempt me, or undermine me?

 

Whenever we decide to break away from a ‘normal’ acceptable behavior and challenge the pack mentality we can expect those types of reactions. Deep down we are just like animals. Our status in the pack depends upon our buying into those behaviors which are deemed necessary by the rest of the dogs.  When we start to forge our own path it upsets the order of things.

 

With each thing I release from my life, I get the same question- Why? People often feel compelled to ask me why I don’t eat meat.
Do you mind if I ask why? Why don’t you eat meat? Is it for religious reasons? Is it a digestive issue? Is it about the animals?…

 

I never ask people why they do eat meat? I know why you eat it. Because you always have. Because it’s what you grew up eating. Because it tastes good. Because you like it. Because you want to.

 

People ask me why I’m not drinking a beer. Do you mind if I ask why? When did this happen? Is it for a diet? It must be for a diet? Oh, wait, are you sober? Will you ever drink again? You will, won’t you?

 

I don’t ask people why they do drink.I know why you drink. Because it tastes good. Because you always have. Because you think you need to. Because it feels good. Because you enjoy it. Because you want to.

 

I recently went to my general practitioner and explained to him that I was diagnosed with breast cancer and I’ll be having a double mastectomy. I told him I was not going to reconstruct.  He looked at me without skipping a beat and said, ‘May I ask why?’

 

In that moment I couldn’t help but wonder if he would have asked me that question had I chosen to get implants?
(I don’t think he would have.)

 

I thought for a moment. How do I answer this question? It was a very big, very personal decision that I made after careful consideration, detailed research,  and much introspective meditation. It would take some time to explain it all. But how could I simplify it?

 

‘May I ask why? Why no reconstruction?’ he asked.
‘Because it’s not necessary’ I said.
That was all. Simple. It is not necessary. He just nodded. I’d like to think he understood me.

 

Soon, as long as everything goes smoothly, I will be walking this earth without boobs. It might make people uncomfortable. They will look at me, and wonder what it is that seems a bit off. Maybe they will figure it out. Then they will wonder what happened. How did I lose them? Then they will wonder why I didn’t reconstruct, or why I’m not wearing implants. There are so many reasons, but they all boil down to that one simple sentence. If anyone asks me I will simply say ‘I didn’t think it was necessary’.

 

From now on when anyone questions my personal choices, asks me why I don’t eat meatballs, or drink alcohol, or dye my grays, I will simply say ‘I don’t feel it’s necessary’.

 

I remember when I stopped dying my hair a couple of years ago, people started to look at me funny. Especially people I have known all of my life. I think it makes some people uncomfortable because they see their own mortality when they see me. Ageing. Graying. Wrinkling. Soon to be breast-less.

 

We don’t really want to face it, do we? We want to fight it.  We want to cover it up. We want to maintain our status in the pack, and numb ourselves into thinking we can escape the inevitable passage of time. We think it’s necessary to struggle against the ticking clock. We fight against it with comfort foods. Alcohol. Pain killers. Hair dye. Skin creams. Religion. Money. Possessions. Traditions. Prosthetic boobs.

 

I am letting go of those things. I am letting go of all of the things I can. Every single damn thing. Watch me shed my skin.

 

I am releasing into what actually needs to be, for me. By letting go af all of the unnecessary in my life, I make room for acceptance of everything that actually is. And acceptance brings peace. It brings a little more peace every day.

 

I am not running with the pack anymore. I’m passing the baton and stepping off the track. The farther I move from the pack, the more firmly I can stand here, grounded in my vulnerability, grounded in my own truth.

 

The more I let go of, the easier it is to stand here. Unencumbered, unburdened by unnecessary things. Accepting all of the changes that come my way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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