It’s funny how no one misses you on the internet. It’s a weird thing to admit, but if a tree falls and you’re not on Twitter, no one cares if it makes a sound. Granted no one cares about most of the digital content we consume on a daily basis. We all kinda go numb to it on some level, don’t you think? We binge on bad news, celebrity gossip and the salacious details of other people’s private lives. We consume media in much the same way that I used to eat sugar as a child — by the spoonful and straight out of the bag. Social media is intellectual Pixy Stix, and what I’m looking for is like … Avocados. Let’s stretch this metaphor beyond its reasonable limit and say I would like to experience and create the intellectual equivalent of the farmers’ market online. I would like to live in a world where digital content is not just soundbites whizzing through space at the speed of your next nervous breakdown. I know our society is geared toward doing things quickly all the time. It was hard to just slow down today, and after I relaxed most of the day, I felt like the most abominable slacker. But I just don’t think most of us are capable of fully processing information and experiences at the rate we feel compelled to take them in, which is interesting. I guess that’s how evolution works — we are always reaching for something just beyond our reach.
I’ve decided to do an internet experiment. You know me and experiments, especially where the internet is involved — I can’t help myself. This time is special because it’s a disappearing act. For the next few days, I’m going to take myself off the internet as much as possible. This isn’t forever, nor am I committing to even a shot period of total digital abstinence, but for a short while, rather than being on Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr all the time, I’ll be interacting with people on the physical plane. You know, like my husband and our friends. And instead of doing my writing on the computer where I am constantly tempted to Google something or message someone or share my every thought, I’ll be writing in my notebook. Longhand. The way I fell in love with writing a long time ago, and the way I still think most clearly.
Meanwhile, I’m letting my pre-scheduled blog posts run as planned, and they’ll be automatically sent to my social media profiles through the wonder of WordPress plugins. And because I don’t know how long I can go without telling The Internet what’s on my mind, I will also write each day about the things I’ve been doing on my side of the screen, in “the real world,” as they say.
For example, today I worked on this dress-making project with my mother-in-law (Chuqui) and her mom (Bueye). That’s them in the picture up top.
I decided for no particular reason that I wanted to make a dress. Chuqui helped me pick out the pattern and the fabric, and we started sewing the other night before dinner. Attempting to finish the dress today, we realized it was a lot smaller than it should’ve been. I usually wear between a size 8 and size 10 (curvy girls, represent!), but because the pattern looked small we cut the fabric for a size 14, and it still didn’t fit. We had no idea what we did wrong, which is why we had to call in the expert. Bueye has been making beautiful things all her life,and though she doesn’t do seamstress work anymore, she appeared to enjoy putting her skills to work and showing us young chicks up.
I don’t have any lesson to share from this. The dress still isn’t finished, nor do we know what we did wrong exactly, but Bueye helped us fix the darts so my boobs look even and add a pleat so the back will close. I got stuck with a few pins in the process, but I also got free coffee, lunch and a sewing lesson out of it. It’s better than what I would have gained spending the day on Tumblr. (Sorry Tumblr, I love you and all, but I think we have a productivity issue.)
There are lots of other things I’ve been thinking about, but the noise in my head these days is just too much. Being on the internet 24/7 has made me feel trapped by the news cycle, to use a cliche. Especially in the wake of the Texas legislature’s assault on women’s rights and the Zimmerman verdict … I’ve been feeling sortof powerless and sad, and the constant flow of information doesn’t help with that. So, I’m gonna step away for a while until I feel like I have my head on straight again. And I don’t know how long that’ll take. I hope it’s quick because I want to get back to talking with everyone and having a grand old time. But you can’t rush these things, so it’ll take as long as it takes.
Oh, and I will still teach the online yoga class and respond to e-mail because I do want to hear from you and interact with you on a human level. Just not in the intensely public format of social media right this second.
Thanks for understanding.
Welcome to part four of my meditation series! This week, I want to talk about the resistance, fear and anxiety that sometimes come up during meditation.
On the surface, meditation doesn’t look scary, but sometimes it is. When I started meditating, I was afraid that by going too deep into my own mind, I would find out I was crazy, or I’d realize some terrible thing that happened to me as a child. There was really no need to worry, although it’s a pretty legitimate fear that lots of people have. Even if you’re not sure what you’re getting hung up on, the anxiety you feel when you start meditating is rooted in our fear of facing ourselves. We’re taught by our society that self-loathing is somehow admirable — it’s not just humility we’re taught, but putting ourselves last, being self-less, and even ashamed of so many parts of our nature. But it’s crazy to me that we have such a deep rooted fear of really facing ourselves. Is this some kind of evolutionary quirk that we outgrew but never got around to shedding from our genes?
Whatever it is, the good news is that meditation gives us the tools to work through it.
The first way to deal with this fear is to recognize it for what it is. Fear is a projection of your worst-case scenario. It’s also a chemical reaction in your brain. It may feel like an inexplicable shot of adrenaline or a nagging need to fidget. First and foremost, see it for what it is, and accept it: I am experiencing fear.
Second, have compassion for yourself. Imagine how you would feel for a little kid scared of the dark. It’s really the same. You’re moving into unknown territory or perhaps dealing with some issues you’ve avoided until now. It’s perfectly understandable for your mind to dig in its heels at this point. But just like there’s no use dragging a kicking child anywhere (I promise the experience won’t be positive for anyone), there’s no use forcing yourself to confront deep dark monsters. So ease up! Be kind enough to back off if the fear feels like too much.
You may find that the feeling of acceptance of this fear is enough to melt it so you can move forward with your meditation. Focus on that feeling of compassion. If the fear is too great, back off and return to focusing only on the breath. Count your breaths and stay with that for as long as you can. Whatever you do, don’t feed into the fear. Don’t obsess about it. Don’t chase it down demanding to know where it came from and why it’s coming up now. You’ll only make yourself feel crazy with that. Simply focus on the breath or on the feeling of compassion until either the fear subsides or your meditation ends.
For many people, this compassionate approach to fear and anxiety is enough to get comfortable with meditation. However, if you have an intense or persistent feeling of fear that you can’t get past, I recommend working in person with a teacher you trust. I have often found that meditating in the presence of a teacher or close friends makes it easier for me to settle down, as though that person’s physical presence is a mental security blanket for me. Going to meditation classes at a yoga studio is a good place to start.
Finally, if you struggle with anxiety consistently, you may want to go a step further and seek support from a therapist or counselor. Yes, I certainly believe in the power of yoga and meditation, but there are folks in other lines of work who can help immensely. I say this as a person who has dealt with somewhat severe anxiety and depression in the past — accept help and support wherever you find it, whether that’s in the form of your yoga teacher, your best friend, or your doctor.
Do you have other questions about meditation? Leave me a note in the comments, and I’ll do my best to address them! Next week, we’ll talk about how to set up your personal meditation space to nurture your practice.
The real reason we do yoga poses is to prepare the body for meditation. Yep. In fact, in the Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, the only pose or asana mentioned is the simple seated posture we use for meditation. In a classical yoga practice, the primary reason for doing poses is to help the body be strong enough and flexible enough to meditate comfortably. Of course, that translates to better overall health as well, which is one reason yoga has become so immensely popular in recent years. The good news is you don’t have to do a long, complicated or showy practice to prepare for meditation. Here’s a simple practice that you can modify based on what your body needs and how much time you have. Each pose has a unique effect on the body, so it’s best to pick one pose from each category to get a well-rounded practice.
Step 1: Side Stretch
Side stretches are energizing to the body and good for the digestion. A simple side stretch can be done while sitting, standing, kneeling or lying down. To start, try reclining half-moon. Lie on your back on the floor, and stretch the arms out overhead, touching the floor behind you. It’s OK if the elbows to bend in order for the arms to relax in this position. With the legs straight, walk the heels over to one side as far as they’ll go, and then inch the arms, head, and shoulders in the same direction, forming a “C” or half moon with the body. This will create a stretch through the elongated side of the body. Take a few deep breaths, and allow the body to sink into this stretch without using force. Come back to center before repeating the stretch on the opposite side.
Step 2: Twist
Twists are cleansing and calming to the body. Like side stretches, they’re also good for the digestion as they gently squeeze and massage the internal organs. Here’s a quick and easy twist anyone can do.
Sit in a comfortable position on the floor or in a chair. Stabilize the hips so they will not move when you twist. Place the right hand directly behind the spine on the chair or floor, and place the left hand on the right knee. Inhaling, imagine you could actually grow taller, extending the head toward the sky and tucking the chin slightly to create length through the back of the neck. As you exhale, gently squeeze the belly button toward the spine to begin twisting. The heart and ribs turn to face the right while the hips stay grounded. Turn the chin over the back shoulder. When you’re ready to come out, inhale once more to sit up tall, and on the exhale, gently unwind the pose. Then do the same twist in the opposite direction.
Step 3: Back Bend
Back bending is considered very energizing – no wonder it’s the first stretch most of us want to do when we wake up! When you spread your arms wide and raise the chest with a big yawn, that’s a gentle back bend. To do a seated back bend, simply rest your hands on your knees while sitting up nice and tall (just like you will for meditation). Inhaling, lift the heart and press the chest forward while rolling the shoulders back and down. Slightly lift the chin to create a sense of length and openness in the front of the throat. As you exhale, hug the belly button in toward the back, tuck the tailbone, and create length through the back of the body, reversing the curve. Do several rounds of this movement combined with slow, deep breathing. The same thing can be done on the hands and knees and is usually called “Cat/Cow” in yoga classes.
Step 4: Forward Bend
Forward bends are calming and are great for times when introspection is needed. There are tons of great forward bends to pick from, such as child’s pose, standing forward bend, wide-leg forward bend, and downward dog. If you’re seated in a chair, place both feet firmly on the floor, and simply drape the upper body over the thighs, allowing the head to hang. If your chest doesn’t reach your thighs, a blanket or pillow across the lap can make this more comfortable. Alternatively, sit on the floor in a comfortable cross-legged position (also known as sukasana or easy pose), and place the hands on the floor in front of you. Walk the hands out in front of you, bending forward until you feel a gentle stretch in the back of the hips. Whichever foot is in front, that side of the hips will feel the stretch first. After a few breaths, change the cross of your feet and do the stretch again to make sure you address both sides.
Once you’ve completed this brief practice, try sitting for a short meditation. Notice if there is any difference in the body, the breath, the energy level, or the state of mind. If you are very distracted, a longer practice can be helpful in calming the mind. Several rounds of Sun Salutation, for example, can be a great preparation for a longer meditation.
As the dregs of winter drag on, we’re so close to spring, yet it’s still cold and grey outside. I stay inside and just wait for sunny days.
Sometimes I get really down for no particular reason. It’s just part of life. I’m sitting around thinking too hard, and I start to feel bad about things. It’s usually because I need to get out of the house, get out of my own head for a while, cut out the navel gazing, etc. In other words, I am a depressive narcissist, and the cure is other people.
Some people are like lights, and thinking about them can brighten my mood in an instant. My sister is a very bright one. When I think of her, it’s like being back in the bedroom we shared as kids — a perfectly safe place where all the problems are simple ones, and Mom and Dad are just in the next room in case you need them. I had one of these moments the other day, and I called my sister just to hear a friendly voice. I could hear her baby laughing in the background, and everything seemed warm and bright.
There’s something special about a relationship with a sister. I tend to feel that I owe something to everyone on earth, even though I know that’s nonsense. Everyone’s got expectations or something they want from you — even people you love. But with my sister, it’s different. Neither one of us chose the other (as far as I can tell) or is responsible for the other in any way. Our loyalty stems from the pure love of siblings who are simply amazed at the miraculousness of one another. At least that’s how it seems to me, and I feel very thankful for it all.
Is there anyone like this in your life? Someone who’s unconditional love and support you can always count on? Who brightens your day with just a thought? When you get nostalgic for a simpler time, who do you imagine spending it with?
Today is a good day to call that person. Get outside yourself a little bit today. Spring is almost here. Spread the warmth!