tips, round 5

Two more weeks have passed since the last compilation. Here we go.

June 15, 2020

Lift your beautiful heart. That’s the phrase the yoga teacher I love uses when she directs listeners to go into cobra. That’s a pose where you lay tummy down and peel your chest off the ground, curling upward. It’s a soft backbend. Your hands are positioned near your shoulders, and the temptation is to push yourself up rather than lift your heart. Lifting your heart creates a very different sensation than pushing yourself back into the pose. It becomes gentler; there’s less strain on the spine. By lifting the heart, you attend to where it is as you stretch. During Mass, we pray something similar during the eucharistic prayer. The priest tells us to “Lift our hearts,” and we respond, “We lift them up to the Lord.” I’m not sure I’ve really thought much about these words. They’re at the beginning of the eucharistic prayer. This little dialogue between priest and congregation is moving us from Liturgy of the Word to Liturgy of the Eucharist. The table has been set, and now we get ready for offering and communing. There are some who say that yoga and Christianity cannot coexist. The more I practice both, the more firmly I believe this separation is nonsensical. Matthew Fox has written that there is one river but many wells. In other words, there is one God, but there are many ways to understand, pray to, and reach toward that God. It takes great bravery to lift your heart to God. We often stand in positions of supplication. We bow our heads for blessing. We kneel or genuflect in front of the Eucharist. At times, we prostrate before holiness. There is, indeed, a natural inclination to take a position of humility when confronted with the divine. But we are also called to lift those beautiful hearts of ours and stand firmly within the divine presence, to let it surround us, to be awed by our participation in the divine. Yes, let us lift these beautiful hearts.

June 17, 2020

Acknowledge when you aren’t at your best. If only to yourself. I’m snarky today. We slept poorly at our house. The nightly—why do they have to be nightly?—fireworks are taking a toll on Buddy, which means he’s on edge for a good portion of the night, which means he scratches at the walls or furniture, which means sleep is disturbed. It’s fun. See: snarky. I find that these are the days I want to lash out at everyone. I’ve already been a smart ass to one person on Facebook. I could be to a few others. I’m not proud of it. So, starting now, I’m noting my unwillingness to put up with crud, backing away because it does no one any good for me to be bitchy, and keeping myself to myself. Maybe I’ll listen to some Alanis or Sinead later. Maybe I’ll take a nap. Definitely I’ll focus on work that needs doing, because it’s always nice to accomplish something. Later today or tomorrow, I’ll be a better me. But for now, I’ll just sit in my corner so as not to light the world on fire. Though, maybe that wouldn’t be so bad . . .

June 18, 2020

Stay where you are or . . . I know. You’re probably tired of hearing my yoga talk. But, well, it’s how I start my mornings now, so it tends to settle into my head and heart. One of the things that Clara says when moving through different poses is: “Stay where you are or lift up your back leg.” Or: “Stay where you are or spread your wings.” Or: “Stay where you are or do this other crazy thing.” In other words, she provides modifications. She invites the practicer to honor their body by staying put or going deeper. Some days, I can go deeper. Some days, I need to stay put. As I build strength, I notice myself being more and more willing to step into that “or” space. When I began this daily practice weeks ago, I didn’t even consider the “or.” I marveled at it. I was in awe that anyone would or could go deeper. Globally, we are being called into an “or” space now. Multiple “or” spaces. Once the history books get written about this time, I don’t think we’ll be able to separate the pandemic from the protests from the political. All of this has been tied together, and people with more intelligence and better articulation than I will explain how. But I sense it: Trump has unleashed great political unrest. And without the pandemic, I don’t know that we as a society would have had the room to think about how very unbalanced we have been; the economic and racial disparities have been on stark display. And then the murder of Floyd and continuing murders of black men and women gave us very concrete views of what this unbalanced way of being has made us. We are not okay with it. We can stay where we are—or we can change this. We can go deeper into this imbalance and right it. We can wobble our way through, building strength and integrity. Some of us might need to take a little longer to get to the “or.” Clearly. But perhaps if enough of us step into the “or” space, if enough of us go a little deeper, stretch a little longer, become braver and more aware, we’ll show those who are hesitant that it’s possible to move differently. Stay where you are or . . .

June 19, 2020

Acknowledge the good. Today we celebrate Juneteenth, the end of slavery. If we’ve learned anything in recent weeks (if not years), it’s that slavery as an institution may have come to an end, but white people have devised creative and cruel ways to keep black people bound. When it comes to keeping the status quo afloat, we’re rather imaginative. What would happen if we turned that imagination toward achieving freedom, equality, acceptance, and peace? We might actually achieve it. I digress a bit. These weeks have been heavy ones. They should be. The list of men and women who should still be alive is long. We need to confront and mourn that loss. But today, honor the good. I am astounded by the changes that are occurring. Companies are coming out strongly against racism and are making commitments to be better and do better. Sure, they’re motivated by money and they’ve taken their sweet time making this statement, but I also think they’re seeing what role they play in shaping cultural conversations. This is a big deal. White people, like myself, who have considered themselves nonracist and therefore good to go, are evaluating how maybe that’s not enough. Maybe we need to take it a step further and be antiracist. It’s long past time to speak out when friends or family members make racist comments. It’s long past time to take our business away from companies that don’t support people of color. It’s long past time to vote out people who enable modern-day enslavement. The status quo is changing. How many times can we say that in our lives? Slavery ended. We have work to do. We have people and companies to hold accountable. But today, let’s consider what good has occurred and is occurring. Not to forget or ignore the work yet to do, but to gain strength to keep fighting, keep hoping, keep going.

June 22, 2020

Honor who they were. I have culled my friends list a fair bit since 2015. In recent years, I haven’t hesitated to hit that unfriend button if someone displays racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, homophobic, or hateful tendencies. Yes, my Facebook is an echo chamber. I’m okay with that. There are other, more fruitful ways to get outside my bubble. But here’s the deal: I’ve unfriended people I was quite close to at one time. They have shown me who they are, though, and I am okay with letting that go. There can be sadness in this process. We can feel betrayed, let down, disappointed, astounded. These people we thought we knew are not what we expected. We might not be to them who they expected either. This shifting is uncomfortable, and it unleashes a grieving. As I let people go, I find it helpful to keep in mind some words of my mother: “They have a little light of Christ in them too.” She often says this as Southerners say, “Bless her heart.” Occasionally she acknowledges that it might be a very dim light. But this little saying of hers has been with me a very long time. And I find it a very grounding reminder. All of us have that little light of Christ—even the people I most struggle to love, tolerate, or understand. People come into our lives at various times. Some stay forever; others drift in and out; still others are bright flames that, for whatever reason, sputter and go out for us. There are people I miss. But I can honor who they were at that time. We needed each other then; we might not need each other now. I trust that somewhere that little light of Christ is shining in them, and maybe it’ll flare up to enlighten toward love.

June 23, 2020

Let’s talk medication. I had been thinking about addressing this topic, but then George Floyd changed the world, and we all had other things to discuss. We still do. But in the midst of it, mental health exists. I’m not here to say whether you should or should not take medication for anxiety or depression. But I do want to say that, if you’re struggling, talk to your doctor about it. I present my experience, though, because we don’t talk much about what it’s like to decide medication is right. I do not have to take meds consistently. It seems like I can be off them for a year or two, and then things get a bit wonky. As I’ve learned to manage anxiety, I have gained a lot of tools to use before medication becomes necessary. When I notice myself getting anxious, I pay attention to what’s around me, what I’m thinking about, where in the year we are, and how I’m treating my brain and body. I talk to Patrick, my mom, some friends. I let people know there’s some unsettled-ness. I have developed a two-week rule: if I have several anxious spells, I become more intentional about meditating, walking, eating better, watching my sleep, and drinking water. I tell myself that if the anxiety persists for two weeks, then I need to talk to the doctor. Usually, within a day or two, things start to right themselves. I keep doing the good things, and generally it works. The two-week rule gives me breathing room. This year, in February, I knew it wasn’t working. Having been through this cycle a few times, I knew medication needed to be seriously considered again. And I resisted it. Because, despite knowing it helps, despite not judging other people for their need for medication, I can judge myself. Every single time I’ve gone on medication, I’ve felt weak and incapable. It is not a pleasant place to be. It is, perhaps, partly necessary. Because it helps me acknowledge the need for assistance, compassion, and gentleness. And it gives me a certain respect for the challenges everyone faces with their mental health. Mine is, to be quite honest, mild in comparison to many others out there. I have a medication that works. It’s a very low dose. I have not had to tweak it. The side effects I experience are generally sweaty hands, some intestinal discomfort, and fear that maybe this time it won’t work; these last for only a few days. Then the medication does indeed do its work, and I know I’m on the upswing. I am very fortunate. But every single time I have to fight it. Coming to terms with weakness is hard. And I don’t mean weakness as a negative or pejorative here. I mean it as an inability to do it all on our own. I mean weakness as that thing that forces us to reach out our hands and ask for someone to help us stand. We can’t do it all on our own. We do need help, and sometimes that help comes in the form of a little pill that rights our chemistry. Sometimes it’s walking in nature, or doing yoga, or just talking to other people. Sometimes it’s a cup of tea and a good night of sleep. There is no shame in doing what makes one healthy, and acknowledging that we feel shame can be the first step in moving it aside and getting on with the work of being well. Again, I share this to shed light on the process of medicating, not to say you should do all the meds or self-medicate. It is a process, and it takes work to figure out what’s best. Do the work.

June 24, 2020

Expect better. I’ve noticed a pattern in my thinking. The yoga I’m doing through this month is part of a challenge, 30 Opportunities for Yoga. Clara has curated the classes for the month, and all of them are available to see. Sometimes, if the class for the next day is one I’ve not done before, I’ll play the video and fast forward so I can see what to expect. Today’s class had some interesting boat pose playfulness in it, and as I glanced at the video last night in preparation for this morning, I thought, “Oh, hell no. I’m not going to be able to do that.” But this morning I got on the mat anyway. And guess what. I did it. Not perfectly. Not beautifully. But done. It happened. I know myself to be certain things, but the older I get, the more I wonder what I don’t know about myself. There is something to be said for “knowing yourself.” But there is also something to be said for “exploring yourself.” Who are you today? What is more, better, different than you anticipated? How have you shifted? Do you think you’re capable of only so much but realize you can, indeed, do more? We get into patterns of thinking that can be helpful but sometimes aren’t. The next time I see a class that intimidates me, I’m going to try to think in terms of capability, excitement, and play. I’m going to expect better of myself.

June 25, 2020

Be awed. Two years ago today, according to those handy FB memories, I stole a question from Muggsy: What historical moment(s) in your life filled you with awe? I suspect that I will forever be awed by 2020. Early in the year, we were adjusting to having an impeached president; then the pandemic hit; then people started protesting the murders of black men, women, and children; then the pandemic continued. We are witnessing history. Daily. It’s not always fun or pleasant or comfortable. But we are being moved from one way of being to another. The processing of this time will take a while to unpack. We’ve been confronted with our own mortality, that of those we love, blatant injustice, the very real consequences of climate change, and the apparently never-ending cesspool of hatred that exists in the world. But we also get to unpack what it’s like to stop everything, if only briefly, to attend to the weakest among us; the voices of all kinds of people shouting “I can’t breathe” and “Justice for [insert murdered black person’s name here]”; the clearer skies that resulted from fewer cars on the road; the different ways of understanding work as some folks adjusted to being home instead of at the office; and conversions or awakenings of heart as society said no to wallowing in that cesspool of hate. These events will continue to unfold for a long time. We can either be cynical and assume things will go back to the way they were or be in awe at the new creation becoming visible. And perhaps if we’re in that cynical space, we can have the grace to stand aside and let the awe-filled folks do the work of changing this world.

June 26, 2020

Be human. Have you noticed how often digressions, sinfulness, and bad behavior are excused with “We’re only human after all”? This is one of my least favorite sayings. It’s true; we are human. But being human doesn’t mean we can get away with being the least of ourselves. The Genesis creation myth, the story where God creates light and dark, sea and sky, earth and animals, the story where we begin—in this story, we are created in the “image and likeness” of God. Yes, we fall. Yes, we fail. But this image and likeness was never wiped away. The shine may have worn off a little when Adam and Eve bit into that apple, but they were still God’s creation. We are still God’s creation. We do ugly things. We eat metaphorical apples daily. But when we look in the mirror, that there is still the image and likeness of God. It can be hard to see this image and likeness in ourselves, much less in others. But in these days, when it’s tempting to see the worst in others, look for the divine. Look for that “little light of Christ.” Do not let yourself off the hook because you are human. Indeed, you are—but you are human in the divine image. Stand in that space for a bit because it’s revolutionary.

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