Hello again, Yoga Friends,
Happy Holy Thursday and happy springtime. Things are greening up here in Mid-Ohio, and my eyes are drawn to the buds, sprouts, shoots, and blossoms. It is a comfort to me, amidst the empty store shelves, masked faces, and streaming news updates to gaze on growing things and all kinds of new life. The earth is keeping on and I am grateful.
How are you? How are you being, coping, changing? How are you failing, trying, and succeeding? How are you growing? Write to me and let me know!
Some of you might have noticed that after the first couple weeks of Ohio’s social distancing, my youtube yoga videos hit a standstill. For me, those first two weeks held a kind of spaciousness. During week one my children kept up with their music studies and a variety of educational website work, as well as a smattering of art work and creation , video games, outside play and lots of rest, as their school did not yet have formal online education. The second week happened to be our spring break. So because of this, I had time to simply roll out of bed and tap “record.” Inside that loose schedule, one of the biggest motivators for me to do post my first videos was a call to action from Yoga International for yoga teachers to get their yoga online – teach poorly, record poorly, post poorly — in essence, do a bad job, but just do it. So I did.
After spring break our school district began formal online instruction, so I needed to help the kids orchestrate and organize, troubleshoot and upload, email and message, acknowledge and let go. Thank goodness I had 16 years of stay-at-home mom training, mindfulness & yoga practice, and side-gig work in my bones, otherwise, I might have been frantic, rigid, anxious, and over-concerned. Luckily, I’ve learned to let things roll off my back.
In addition to helping with online school, I was teaching twice weekly classes online, writing meditations, and recording videos and audio tracks for my work with Mind Body Align. There were moments of joy those first weeks, and there were moments of impatience, shrieking, messiness, hurt feelings, and tears, followed by, yep – you guessed it, some more happiness, splashes of joy, and bits of contentment.
Even though things were going okay (relatively speaking), and I was embracing the moment, living the now, and acknowledging my experience (you know, all the “right” things), I was feeling a little tight in the chest and queasy in the gut. All around, uneasy. Then a fantastic article appeared at the top of my inbox…
…Why You Should Ignore All That Coronavirus-Inspired Productivity Pressure, by Aisha S. Ahmad. Go ahead and click on that and read it now, if you’ve not already been blessed. I received this through an email newsletter from Lori Snyder at Splendid Mola and the Writer’s Happiness Movement. I immediately shared it with a few people I thought might benefit as much as I did, and sure enough, the responses I got were intense: an intense amount of relief, appreciation, and immediate positive mental shift — the kind of good that brings tears. It was palpable through the text bubbles. So I’m sharing it with you here, in hopes that you experience some of that goodness, too.
I’d already been cleaning and reorganizing out of sheer necessity, and it had its moments of greatness. I tend toward cleaning out and organizing anyway when my life’s circumstances are visibly, obviously, literally outside of my control. I can make sure dish towels are stacked with dish towels and bath towels with bath towels. I can put pens in the pens place and paper in the paper place. I can not control what other people decide to do: whether they wash their hands, wear masks, or social distance, whether they make good and healthy choices. So it feels good to control the things that are within my power: to put clothes away in their proper place, shut the drawers, sweep the counters clean of crumbs, hang the coats and close the doors. So, the cleaning was happening on more than one level already.
After reading Ahmad’s article, I really felt validated and inspired in my tidying up, and at one point I became aware that I was nesting. I’d been through this biological response and instinct four times already — never thought I’d experience it again.
But really, I’m getting ready to birth a new thing into the world, a stay-at-home thing — a stay-at-home-family-thing.
If you skipped over the article, here’s another chance for you to stop and read it (three more chances, actually). The work comes second. Note that again: the work comes second. I learned from my years at home that certain things had to happen first, or at least be in place, for a day to run smoothly from sunrise to bedtime. Rather than relying on my “Chopped” skills and create magic on the fly as I’d been doing for the last few months, I re-instituted the loose plan-and-prep skills I used when my babes were babes. I’ve never been a “two-week-meal-plan” person, ever, but lately I’d taken to stopping at the market almost daily to scoop up some fresh goods, or swing by the grocery pick up door, so I didn’t have to spend too much time at once.
So I get the things in place: clean and workable space with scented candles, comforting blankets, soft lighting, good music, and windows to see the outside. Then, the groceries: the choosing, collecting, disinfecting, unboxing, and disposing, the prepping, cooking, baking, and storing. Serving or self-serving can then happen at any time and all the time, and I’m able to work.
Sure, things back up, get left undone, fall out of place and need tending, but the deep groundwork is laid.
This is the call to self-care section. And I do not mean bubble baths. Even if you love bubble baths and bubble baths are your top tools for relaxation and coping. No, I mean the stuff at your core, the stuff that you find through deep self-inquiry: what is necessary for you to survive? And then, what is necessary for you to thrive? If you don’t already know, find that stuff out. Then, resource it.
This can take many forms and will be slightly different for all of us, but we share a common humanity, and because of this we all need and desire a certain amount of patience, kind attention, shared connection, gentleness, affection, respect, and a sense of vitality and purpose. Because of this, resourcing might not only look like stocking up on body wash or chocolate (though these things are totally comforting and so, yes, get them!), but resourcing might take the form of something else: setting agreements.
Because our daily lives have changed dramatically, and new routines are trying to surface in the midst of ever-changing circumstances, making agreements with the people you live with is vital to cultivating a loving environment. Look to create the circumstances (to the best of your ability and only what is within your power to control) in which all members of your family can be seen, heard, and thrive. If you live alone, you need to make agreements with yourself and be your own accountability partner, as well as your own way-maker. Heck, being your own best friend is vital even (and especially) when you live with other people, friends, or family members.
Find out what your needs are and take care of them, so that you can care for the needs of others. Be a wise kind of selfish. And if the foolish kind of selfish creeps in, kick it out! Foolishness hurts everyone, including ourselves.
In addition to body wash, chocolate, and agreements, resourcing is about self-nourishment. This can look like taking time to sit in quiet and stillness, taking time to pray, time to listen, to practice yoga or qigong, taking time to balance your energy. It might also look like learning something new, doing puzzles, creating art, composing music. You might be someone who gains energy from a walk in the woods or a bike ride around your neighborhood. You might feel calmed by listening to birds and letting the sun shine on your skin. Be curious about what kinds of activity and what kinds of stillness feed your soul, make you feel secure and stable, spacious and free. Then, do them.
NOW, SOME NEW STUFF
CREATING & EXPLORING
I’ve been creating meditations and yoga practices, learning some new tech skills, experiencing qigong, and stepping outside my comfort zone to talk about yoga and prayer, contemplation and the cosmic Christ, and Christian-sensitive yoga. I’ve also stepped beyond my comfort zone by being quiet and listening. This is hard for me. And even though it’s difficult, and I fail, I keep trying. I’m practicing waiting for other people’s words to come to me, and then sit with those words for several moments or days, or even weeks before I let myself decide what I think is being communicated. And if I’m still not sure, I ask questions. This is hard for me, but somehow it speaks to and supports my intention for 2020: Ease.
I have a new video up on my youtube channel called Mindful Movement. It’s just a short exploration of moving slowly to discover a sense of ground and centeredness. The movements are a variation of traditional qigong practices. I hope you give it a try. It might not be your familiar version of “power yoga,” but it is certainly powerful.
I’ve decided to set up a Venmo account. I had a student inquire about whether she could make a donation for the free youtube videos. I thought about it and decided that would be okay. So, if you feel inclined to support my work here at The Catholic Yogi, you can find me by searching @Amy-thecatholicyogi in the venmo app. You’ll know it’s me by the logo. Or you can tap or click here.
ASK A YOGI Q & R
As always, if you find yourself with some yoga questions, drop me a line. Of course, you could google to your heart’s content, but if you’d like this Catholic Yogi’s perspective, reach out! Ask me about:
- home practice
- yoga & spiritual/religious integration
- postures and alignment
- mindfulness and meditation
- practice and prayer as a householder (someone with a job and family to support, not someone in a monastery, ashram, hermitage, or other specialized tradition with a dedicated dwelling)
- how to share your yoga with your kids or other family members
- something specific about your experience
You can count on me to do my research and write back to you personally, and I’ll only publish questions and responses anonymously if I feel they would benefit a wider audience.
Also, you might have noticed that I changed Q & A to Q & R. I learned this from Mirabi Starr, and I love the intention — I don’t have all the answers, but I do have a response from my own experience. So really, this is all just about sharing the knowledge.
May you know peace,
May you know happiness,
May you know tenderness,
May you know joy.
I know that was a long one, so I appreciate your sustained attention, and/or the way you kept coming back each time you needed to stop and take care of something or someone.
So don’t forget:
- Take care of yourself
- Then work
- Be wise
- Make a point of happiness
- Throw in some giggling
With gratitude for you and your practice,
The Catholic Yogi