Go Do Cool Stuff and Make the World Awesome

800px-USCG_sailor_volunteering_at_WT_Sampson_school_in_Guantanamo_-a

In the past couple years, I’ve become an absolute believer in the power of volunteering. Wanna make the world more awesome? Volunteer. Wanna do something nice for your community? Volunteer. Wanna make friends with cool people and learn things at the same time? You get the idea.

A gift of your precious time and energy can make worlds of difference for people in your community, and you may be surprised at how much helping others boosts your own sense of well-being. Helping others makes you powerful in the best possible way. So, what are you waiting for? You can start right this second. Pick a community you love or an issue you care about, and go have fun making the world a better place. Here are a few of my favorite ways to volunteer along with suggestions from my friends:

  • Walk dogs or pet cats for the SPCA — yes, playing with animals is a form of community service!
  • Join a Habitat for Humanity build team. Bonus: They will teach you how to use power tools!
  • Pick up litter around your neighborhood.
  • Sort clothing/donations at a nonprofit thrift store.
  • Serve food, help cook, or clean up at a soup kitchen.
  • Read to nursing home residents or children in the hospital.
  • Assemble care packages and/or help give them out to the homeless in your city.
  • Knit/crochet hats, scarves, socks and blankets for the ill, the elderly, or the homeless.
  • Coach your favorite sport for a local youth team.
  • Be a conversation partner or instructor for people learning your language.
  • Help out with local art events, community concerts, conventions or any other happening you’d like to see more of in your community. Bonus: Volunteering often means you get free admission, too!
  • Help plant flags at the veterans’ cemetery on Veterans’ Day.
  • Offer your professional skills (blogging, design, IT, accounting) to nonprofit organizations.

Extra bonus for all types of volunteering: It’s a great opportunity to meet other folks who care about the same things you do, which can lead to some of the most enriching friendships of your life.

Need some direction to find your perfect fit? Check out these organizations to find the best way to volunteer in your community:

Read More

Monday Night Nonfiction: Still Practicing

life is just one big balancing act
Lately, I’ve been feeling wondering what my next steps are and where they’re leading. I’m loving teaching yoga, the online classes are going well, and I’ve got a new studio class to work on, too. I’ve even been experimenting with streaming my personal yoga practice as a way of forcing myself to do it, although the truth is I’m a little self conscious about it.

I’m definitely ready to deepen my practice and my teaching, though. Some of the poses I practice I don’t yet feel confident enough to teach, and there are definitely advanced poses that I want to learn. I know doing impressive poses isn’t the most important part of yoga, but if I’m asking anyone to see me as a teacher, I think my end of the deal includes striving to better myself, build on my knowledge, and hone my craft.

On the other hand, everyone’s at a different place on their unique path, and none of us are perfect. That means in terms of our physical practice, our self-discipline, our understanding of the sutras, the depth of our meditations — in all of it, we are imperfect. We always have something to learn. If we were perfect, wouldn’t be where we are right now. Maybe without knowing it that’s what I was getting at last winter when I started setting my goals for 2013: Love more, sing more, be imperfect.

Have I loved more this year? Yeah. I think I’ve been given more opportunities to love and to stretch my understanding of it in everything from my relationship with my husband to my connection with my yoga community.

Have I sung more lately? Not always well, but yes. I mean literally singing along when a good song comes on the radio even if someone might be listening. I also mean Omming in class. But I also think there’s a kind of inner resonance akin to “smiling with your liver,” which feels like singing. I think that’s how you know when you’re on your right path, and I’ve been finding that a lot more lately, even though sometimes I struggle to hold the tune.

Being imperfect, though … I thought it’d be the easy part, but it’s not. I’ve always wanted to be perfect, and I think most of us do. And I’ve always known how very far from perfect I am. I am aware of all my compulsions and obsessions. I’ve seen all my own bad behavior. I’ve seen every seeable flaw in my body. I’ve endured my own cruelest thoughts. And it occurs to me that if I could stop grasping for perfection, I would be perfect. If I stopped wanting to be other than I am, what I am would be just right. I’m very slowly getting better at letting go of the struggle, but it takes practice, practice, practice.

Read More