Thursday, April 29, 2010

Two glasses of wine

OK, so some of you have been noticing that I haven't been posting as often as I used to.
The thing is, I am really, really, super-duper busy. Like, knot in stomach, piles of paper, accidentally double booking appointments, taking the train in the wrong direction kind of busy.

The kind of busy where something's gotta give. And lately that something has been this blog. I started this blog because I love thinking about wellness - nutrition, yummy food, yoga, relaxation, what have you, and I felt truly inspired to share these thoughts with the world. But lately, with everything else that has been going on, it can feel a bit like a homework assignment that hangs over my head and causes me stress. Sort of ironic, huh?

I've had thoughts of transitioning to more of a monthly newsletter format. But I got some incredible feedback from last weeks post about yoga/self-limiting thoughts, that inspired me to keep up with more regular postings. They may be shorter than in the past, and at times I may skip a week of posting.

Just letting ya' know.

So the other day, I was feeling massively overwhelmed when I got a "forward" from my friend Naomi. It was exactly what I needed to remember in the moment, and thought I would pass it on to you.

Two Glasses of Wine:

When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day are not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar and the 2 glasses of wine...

 A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls.

He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.
The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar.
Of course, the sand filled up everything else He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with an unanimous "yes."

The professor then produced two glasses of wine from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

"Now," said the professor, as the laughter subsided, "I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things; your family, your children, your health, your friends, and your favorite passions; things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full."
"The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house, and your car. The sand is everything else; the small stuff."

 "If you put the sand into the jar first," he continued, "there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life.  If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room
for the things that are important to you."

 "Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your partner out to dinner. Play another 18. Do one more run down the ski slope.
There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal. Take care of the golf balls first; the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand."

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the wine represented.

The professor smiled. "I'm glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple of glasses of wine with a friend."

I never turn down the suggestion to go have a glass of wine with a friend.... So with this as inspiration I am going to sign off and go do exactly that.


Taking in IN:

What are the golf balls in your life?

The pebbles?

The sand....

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Upward Facing

I am pretty into yoga. I try to take about 3 classes a week and have been practicing for a while.

I love yoga. To me it's like therapy and exercise rolled into one. For those of you that are curious, I go to Prema Yoga and take class with Lesley. I've been going to Lesley's classes for years now. She is a great teacher. She plays amazing music and designs challenging, sweaty, inspiring classes. She manages to set a tone that both encourages you to strive, and leaves room for self-nurturing.

My favorite spot in the room is the front left corner. I like to be by the two windows in the corner of the room. I love looking outside when I am practicing. There is a large tree right outside the window that inspires me to stay grounded. The playground across the street reminds me to be light and have fun with my practice.

OK, so far this descriptions of my yoga experience sounds pretty la di da, right? Balance, playfulness, peace...I'm sure that you are imagining that I am one of those people that is always blissed out in yoga, welcoming each pose as I effortlessly bend my body into various contortions.

Yeah, not so much. I am lucky enough to have had some pretty ecstatic yoga experiences, but more often than not, this is what is going on in my mind during yoga class:

Class Begins:

Ok... focus Nora.
    Hm. My body feel heavy today. I feel slugglish.
I'm not really in the mood for this.

Tired already. 
                          I bet no one else is struggling like this.
Ahh child's pose, can I just stay here the rest of the class?
      I'm so lazy. No one else is taking a break.
I really wish class was over.
                         What time is it anyways?
                                          More effort.
Do I look funny in this posture. I feel funny.
I think my butt is sticking out.
OK, come back. Focus on your breath.
                                    Ow, this hurts. I wish I was more flexible.
                   I used to be so flexible.
Everyone else is so flexible.
        I wish I was skinnier.
I bet I could do this pose better if I was skinnier.
Stop it Nora.
                        Stop being so mean to yourself.
     Wow, this class is hard. I am so tired.
I bet everyone else is totally blissed out right now.
                                   I'm the only one in my head.

Class dismissed.

In summary: everyone is better than me at yoga, no one else struggles, everyone else is blissful, while I am trapped in my mind.

So, here's what happened the other day that I felt was so important that I wanted to share all of this with you.

Last Friday I had an appointment to make immediately after my 4:30 yoga class so instead of my normal spot at the front of the room I put my mat in the back of the room so I could quickly grab my things and get out the door as fast as possible once class was over.

Well, from this new vantage point something amazing happened. From this position I could actually see what other people were doing, rather than just getting to imagine it. And what did I see? I saw people doing yoga. There were beautiful postures and some not so beautiful postures. There were people with great stamina, but there were many who needed to pause or take a break. Some people looked kind of goofy. Some lost their balance.

It was only while watching my peers do yoga that I even realized that all those thoughts that were usually in my head were totally self-created. I mean think about it. I am normally in the front of the room where I can't even see anybody!

The point is not that I am better at yoga than I thought, or that other people are worse, or anything really having to do with yoga. The point is that this experience helped me see that my mind was filled to the brim with self-limiting beliefs.  These beliefs colored what I saw.

Some people believe that we create our own realities.  Like life is a dream.  {Think Matrix}.  The sun, the flowers, the traffic jams, the jobs, the relationships, the conflicts, and the joys are our own creation. I'm not sure where I stand on that.  But what I do believe with total confidence is that we shape our reality by how we perceive it.   And how we perceive it is a direct reflection of inner beliefs about our selves, the world, and how we fit into the world.

A year ago, regardless of where I laid my mat down in the room, I think I would have seen a room full of people that were better than me. However, this past year I have been doing so much work on myself, challenging all of those pesky beliefs that tell me I am not good enough, smart enough, _____ enough.  I am finally ready to see the truth. The truth is that I am human, as are all the other yogis in my class (and everyone else in the world) and that as humans we are each perfect and imperfect in our own special little ways.

My self-critical thoughts will probably never go away. What will change, what has changed,  is my ability to see these thoughts as false, shrug them off, and get back to the business of living my life, enjoying the moment, striving for growth, and trying to keep my balance.

Taking it IN: Do you struggle with thoughts of not being _______________ enough? What will it take for you to challenge that belief?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Relaxation Revolution

Dear readers,

Oy! I am so sorry for disappearing on you like that. I feel like a bad friend who fell off the face of the earth for a few weeks. No calls. No emails.

What happened?

Well I went on vacation. A delicious, luxurious, tropical vacation complete with pina coladas, snorkeling and sun-bathing.

I had every intention of writing a blog post while away, but yeah... that didn't happen. Somewhere in between reading Twilight New Moon (I can't believe I am admitting to that publicly), taking a nap, and working on my tan,writing a blog post just somehow slipped my mind. 

We all know that relaxing feels good and is fun. But I think we forget that it is actually important for our overall health and well-being.

From a physiological perspective, eliciting the relaxation response has tons of positive effects on the body. Things like: raising serotonin levels, boosting your immune system, stabilizing blood sugar levels, improving your digestions and sleep, and much more.

To illustrate the positive effects that relaxation can have on a person, I would like to refer to one of the best films of all-time, Pretty Woman.

Operating under the safe assumption that you have all seen that movie, remember how the Richard Gere character is this workaholic and has really bad insomnia? And then Julia Roberts comes along, and she gets him to loosen up and they go on a picnic and he puts his bare feet in the grass and they read books and snuggle? And then that night, what happens? I think the quote goes, "He sleeps..."

As you know, I have a pretty holistic approach to health. It's not just about the absence of illness. Our sleep habits, stress levels, and mood, all play an important role in our well-being. Something like 70% of all doctors' visits are for the treatment of conditions that are stress-related.

Given the prevalence of stress these days, relaxing becomes a revolutionary act.  Every day, our stressors come at us with an army of worries and, most days, we let that army defeat us. 

Relaxing is not just relaxing.  It is a conscious decision to say NO to the tide that we usually let just take us.  If we can pull this off, even for an hour, it's a miracle, let alone a revolution, and we are saying to ourselves:  I am too important not to relax.  I am bigger than my anxieties.  I am under my own control.  The revolution is self-belief, faith, perseverance, and optimism.

I encourage you to take time out of your day, each and every day, to do something that is either relaxing or fun. Put it on your to-do list. And try to find outlets that go beyond TV and alcohol. Something that is more of the feet-in-the-grass variety.

Take a walk just for the hell of it. Leave your cell phone behind.
Sit on a bench in a park.
Play with a baby.
Practice a random act of kindness.
Take a dance class.
Jump on a trampoline.
Have a night in that is totally "unplugged".

Unwind. Unfurl. Simplify. Revolt!

It will do your body good.