givers and receivers

I haven’t been to yoga in a couple of weeks. Mainly because sleeping in sounded so much better than waking up early to climb into a freezing car. And in the mornings after Andrew has left for work the dogs cuddle up real close to me for those extra couple of hours — Robin in the crook of my arm and Benji curled up on the pillow next to my head. That’s namaste, for real. Today though, I managed to take on the Southern Tundra and get my downward dog on. My studio mates very sweetly complimented me on my baby belly modifications and mentioned they’ve missed me. It was like coming home from college on the weekends to my little spandex-clad family.

mfyogaAn old photo from this past summer.

There was a great moment as we were winding down the practice. One of those moments when universe stuff clicks into place and you can feel it in your bones. We were sitting in sukhasana with our palms facing up. Sonya began talking  to us about the visualization of receiving what we needed through one hand and giving what we had through the other. “Find your dominant, active hand. This is where you give. Now find your submissive, passive hand. This is where you receive.”  Giving is active, receiving is passive.

Giving is active.

Receiving is passive.

 

Oh.

My realization was almost audible. Receiving is passive because we do not need to be active in it. We are receiving always, all the time, from all directions. Receiving is such a constant we often do not even realize it is happening. It comes in so many forms it can be hard to recognize. Let that sink in. We receive SO many gifts from the people, God, and universe around us that we have become numb to it. That is incredible.

The flip side to this is that giving is an active choice that we have to make the conscious decision to participate in. Giving won’t happen unless we initiate it. We are the catalyst, we are the movement. And yet, the only reason we CAN give is because we have already received. It is cyclical. There is no guilt in receiving and there is no pride in giving. There is no fair and unfair. It is inherently balanced. Yin and yang. We don’t have to wait to receive before we give because it has already happened and will continue to happen for the rest of our lives. We don’t have to wait for the ball to be passed to us before we can pass it on; it has already been placed in our hands and there are hundreds waiting to take its place.

For me, this is something that is deeply rooted in my belief in God and our calling to love and serve. We are not called to keep tabs and maintain the score. God established that when all sins were declared equal to one another. Not only is there not a score, there’s not even a scoreboard. There is no record to be lorded over your head nor one to boast about.

There is no guilt in receiving and there is no pride in giving.

We need not worry about being taken care of because that is already in place and set into motion. Our piece of the puzzle is to take care of others and keep the wheel turning. Receiving is passive, giving is active.

It was a good day to get out of bed.

the hormonal in me recognizes the hormonal in you

I’m having a lot of body issues right now. Being pregnant feels very passive; it’s not something that I’m doing, it’s something that is happening to me. It’s mostly waiting and observing on my part now. And while I’m not exactly saying goodbye to a bikini modeling career, it’s still disconcerting to watch my body grow and push out. Hey there stretch marks, I hate your guts. It took a long time for me to accept and even appreciate the way my body looks. And now I have to go through that all over again?? Pardon me while I whine for a bit. Ughhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

There’s a lot of guilt that comes with being pregnant following a loss. You don’t want to take it for granted because you know first hand there are so many women who would do anything to be in your place. Not enjoying the changes and symptoms that are happening to you feels selfish and ungrateful. I’m stuck not wanting to discount either experience. I want to be honest though; pregnancy has not been easy on me so far.

I attempted to turn my attention away from what my body feels & looks like and instead focus on what my body is capable of. Yoga class is the perfect place! Namaste, y’all. Ok except no not at all. I can still do most basic poses without modification but my favorites are off-limits now. Backbends and twists and pushing that edge of what you thought was your limit. The fun stuff. I have been relegated to YET ANOTHER child’s pose (with wide knees of course to make room for my belly to rest). Or maybe a super exciting downward dog-to-table vinyasa? Screw it, now I’m just sitting and picking the dog hair off my yoga pants. These are the moments I wish I had that big round belly already so at least everyone would know what’s going on. Namaste indeed.

I don’t have any wise, self-aware growth to end this on. I’m just mad and need a sandwich. Boo hiss.

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church

20140404-113717.jpgI am curiously amazed and thankful at how church-like of an experience yoga has become for me. As long as I have been on this earth I have not found connection with the many steepled buildings I’ve stepped into. I went because I was “supposed” to, but it was not church for me. However, I have not been without church and without fellowship and without worship. I have found and continue finding these things in the people and places and experiences all around me, every day. Now, breaths are prayers, flows are worship songs, and I spend the entire class in conversation with my God.

When I leave, limbs are pliable, heart is warm, and eyes bright & wild. But I enter the studio heavy with baggage, although sometimes my excitement to begin masks the fact that I’m carrying anything. It always hits me though, on that mat. As I begin to focus on my breath God reveals to me what is in my heart. Usually, it is no surprise to me and I welcome the next hour or so to help me focus on and work through it. But there are times, like today, that what He has to say catches me off guard. I feel dizzy with the realization that what I was bringing to the table wasn’t the heart of the matter. I have been halfheartedly praying for patience, believing that to be the answer to the restless stir inside of me. But as it turns out, I am not ready for patience at all. Because I am still very much freshly wounded and angry and frustrated and wanting. I have been praying for patience but what I need is comfort.

I am not used to asking for comfort. I am used to asking for whatever tools I need to complete the job at hand on my own, which is why I asked for patience to get me and us through these next months or years or whatever is in store. I am used to fixing things. For myself and for other people. I am not used to handing over myself to be fixed. I am not used to presenting my problems to others and admitting that I need help.

So, of course that is the very thing that I need to do.

I am hurting and I am angry and empty and sad. I pass by my reflection and quickly glance down to the soft curve of the lower belly and I just feel empty and alone.

I am asking for comfort and I don’t even know what that means, or what would be helpful. I do know that phone calls are too much for me to take on, so that is my only real request. If you pray (to whom does not matter) then please say a prayer for me. I humbly ask for any way you see fit to brighten my day and send me love, because I’m having a hard time doing it on my own.

Even now as I sit here typing this out on my phone in a parking lot, I am tempted to erase it all and nobody would be the wiser. But I’m going to ignore that temptation and practice my hand at asking my friends for help.

peace and quiet

I took a few days off from work this week so I could have some time to myself. I was feeling so exhausted after the onslaught that was this past weekend and as comforting as everyone has been, I needed to be away from it all for a bit. I gave myself permission to basically do whatever I wanted without holding it up against a scale of productivity as I often do. And so, this week has consisted of a lot of book reading, tea drinking, trashy television show watching (Are You The One on MTV… it’s a sickness), Pinteresting, strawberry eating, dog cuddling, yoga class-ing, and one too many PayDay bars.

IMG_7457-1I’ve had a lot of up and down moments. I’ve been saying, “We’re trusting in God’s plan for us,” and I realized what I really meant by that was, “I’m counting on our next pregnancy to happen quickly and without complication and God had better be on board with that plan.” I’m very solution-oriented. And when there’s not an answer to a problem or a coherent set of steps for me to take, I become anxious. It’s hard for me to process my emotions into neat little boxes when the best solution I can come up with is, “Well.. we’ll wait and see.”

Tuesday night I finally got around to using my birthday present of a set of yoga classes. I chose a yin yoga class which is a style of yoga where the poses are held for around five minutes each. The instructor announced that she’d like for the intention of our practice to be struggle and more specifically whatever it is that we are currently struggling with. I would have bet the meager contents of my bank account that she was inside of my brain reading my thoughts as she went on to explain the strength gained from and the importance of settling into the discomfort of holding a pose for such a long period of time. She talked of not fighting against your threshold but accepting it and breathing through it. Tears burned their way down my cheeks and I thanked the lights for being so dim. I breathed and fidgeted my way through a lizard pose and thought to myself, “This hurts. This hurts and it’s also exactly what I need to be doing.” The parallel between my practice and my life became glaringly obvious in that dark room. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve told Andrew, “I wish I could just skip these next few months and fast forward to the next part.” But I can’t do that. God needs me here and I need to be here. I’m reaching my threshold and I can’t get up and walk away from it.

I have to breathe through it.

shame, and yoga, and new years

I want to talk about shame.

I feel a bit awkward publishing this. Because, while I’m going to try and keep this from becoming long-winded, the subject is heavy. And I need to set it down. There is relief in letting go of weight, but there is also an ache. I hope my high school teacher Mama Hood is pleased to know that I often repeat Carl Jung’s quote in various situations in my life. And to no surprise whatsoever, I find myself saying it now:

There is no coming to consciousness without pain.”

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I recently bought a book (Daring Greatly by Brene Brown) at the suggestion of Naptime Diaries. And then I bought a second one by the same author at the suggestion of Amazon: I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t): Making the Journey from “What Will People Think?” to “I Am Enough”. My purchase sat in the virtual shopping cart for quite some time as I mulled. The reviews were overwhelmingly positive but the title rang a little too self-helpy for my tastes. And by “tastes” I mean my closely held belief that I am OBVIOUSLY way too cool and mentally stable for that nonsense. Eventually, I caved and applauded myself for buying new books instead of rereading Harry Potter again. When the package arrived I set aside Daring Greatly in favor of the other. Brene Brown opens with an introduction describing why & how she came to be a researcher of shame (more specifically, shame and its effect on women) and how that choice has been received so far. I thought some points she made were interesting – especially the outlining of embarrassment, guilt, humiliation, and shame as four distinct and separate experiences. The difference between guilt (“I did something bad.”) and shame (“I am a bad person.”) struck me. Overall though, I found myself thinking that I didn’t have a whole lot of shame in my life. I felt for the women who shared their specific shame situations, but no personal recollections sprang to mind. And with that, I set the book down (all of twenty pages in) and went to bed.

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I woke up this morning and immediately felt the weight. It was heavy in my heart and in my mind and I pushed through morning yoga (new year’s resolution: check!) with the grace and poise of an elephant seal.

Tadasana

Irresponsible

Forward fold

Selfish

Down dog

Lazy

Chaturanga

Disappointing

Baby cobra

Pathetic

Virasana

Annoying

Namaste.

The echo of calm waves gently lapping through the speakers became water filling my lungs and the shame was salt in my eyes. I was handing a check to a friend, asking them to wait until Friday and hearing their reply, “Well maybe you shouldn’t live paycheck to paycheck, huh?”. I was placing clothing with tags into a donation bin because it didn’t fit anymore just two weeks after purchase. I was still in bed at 11:55am, yet to have showered or walked the dogs though I had promised to Andrew a homecooked meal for his short break from work in five minutes. I was standing in the bathroom washing away fresh makeup because it might be seen as silly or ridiculous. I was biting my nails and scratching at my skin after publishing a bikini-clad photo to instagram in hopes of showing that eating disordered bodies don’t always look like eating disordered bodies.

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I was/am overwhelmed with the fact that I do have shame. A lot of shame. Almost every day I feel shame. There’s so much shame I didn’t even realize it deserved a name outside of Rachel’s Life. I don’t know what to do with all this weight except to set it down. And there is relief and there is an ache. Relief that I no longer have to define myself by those terms. Ache from the pressure that was painful but familiar.

Brene Brown defines shame and its relationship with women:

Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging. Women often experience shame when they are entangled in a web of layered, conflicting, and competing social-community expectations. Shame leaves women feeling trapped, powerless and isolated.”

As a Christian, I equate shame with Satan attacking my heart, faith, and psyche. My mom refers to it as “the story you tell yourself”. I don’t want to tell that story anymore. To myself or to other people.  For New Years, I am fond of choosing a word, phrase, or maybe a verse to place in my heart and take with me for the next three hundred and sixty-five days. This year is “be brave & be kind”. Be brave enough to tell your truth without letting the fear of judgment hold you back. Be kind to others and do not use shame as a motivator, way of communication, or as a method of processing your own feelings and reactions. Courage and compassion.

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I have only read twenty pages of this book and I have quite a few left to go. So, I am hardly an expert on the subject or even on my own shame for that matter. But, it’s a read that I encourage you to take on. And when you do, please let me know so we can be a soundboard for one another!

Be brave & be kind.