The Urban Yoga Den

…where it's all yoga.

Yoga Class Focus: Gratitude Trumps Adversity November 27, 2014

SunRaysForestPathSometimes, gratitude does not come overnight. Sometimes days, weeks and months can pass before thankfulness finds its way into a broken heart. But from experience (and lots of it), I know there will be a silver lining to every story of challenge, hardship and adversity. If you’ve read my blog before, you are familiar with my efforts to use yoga, addiction recovery, therapy and related resources to heal from past trauma and cultivate a life of balance and wellness. I’m also devoted to sharing these experiences and tools with others. I’m not perfect; still, I do believe in every being’s potential to heal, grow and change.

And for that – the faith, the belief, the hope – I am grateful.

On this Thanksgiving Day, I am grateful for two specific things.

 

*  *  *

“Humility and gratitude go hand in hand.”
~ Swami Sivananda Radha

#1: I don’t know where my father is.

You may have read my past blogs about last year’s family fiasco. I’d moved from my hometown of DC to Dad’s retirement city of Nashville to support him as he ages. There were major issues with his house, his health and his finances. Although I was able to help successfully in many ways, my time there was challenging from every angle – work, health, home, community, family. The most difficult was watching my father fade with dementia. The most damaging was my sisters’ hostility toward me. I became financially, physically and emotionally depleted. After gaining counsel, I made the very difficult decision to return to DC, where – with the support of deep roots and caring communities – I could rebuild from scratch.

Over the past year, I have been ostracized by my sisters and by my father’s community. I understand where their blurred perspectives originate, and know that my side of the street is clean. I was the one who showed up for him devotedly and dependably since my mother died more than a decade ago. Because throughout our lives, Dad and I have shared an authentic love beyond description. This October, he told me he was having surgery for skin cancer on his head. Our last conversation was November 9th, the day before his procedure. And now, I can’t reach him, he’s not reaching out to me, my sisters and his friends are not contacting me, I have no idea how he is, and I can only guess where he is.

And…I AM GRATEFUL? How?

PathWithHeartThis is a case where I cannot (yet) see the positive in the situation itself. And so, to lighten my heavy heart, I choose to give thanks for related gifts:

  • I am not the only one who loves my father. Dad has his own higher power(s). I must have faith that he is being cared for. Plus, I have the chance to utilize my own toolbox of wellness resources in order to love him, forgive my sisters and cultivate compassion about the family dissonance. My prayers are for his whole health, and, for a joyous Thanksgiving, wherever he is.
  • My friends are my family. This year, I was invited to multiple Thanksgiving meals. There is an “Orphans Dinner,” a “Vegetarian Friendsgiving,” a “Gluten Free Thanksgiving” and assorted gatherings in communities I’ve been part of for years and years. My “family of choice” has also chosen me – we share similar roots, shared experiences and a yearning for healing and growth.
  • What a difference a year makes. Last winter in Nashville, I accepted a Second Harvest food donation for my family. It was one of the most humbling experiences of my life – but, that box of food went a long way when resources were short. This past week, I joined a group of volunteers at a DC nonprofit, giving turkeys and groceries to families in need. This experience widened my gratitude for where I stand today. Things are far from stable, but thanks to seven months of recent steady work, I have food in my fridge…thanks to returning to DC, I’ll share holiday meals with dear ones…and thanks to gleaning the best from a past of hardship, I am able to serve others in ways that I once needed.

*  *  *

“Once you know that suffering is for your benefit… You’ll gladly go through it.”
~ Swami Satchidananda

#2: I was recently fired from my restaurant job.

Exactly four weeks before, my boss sat me down for a glowing progress review. A month later, she scornfully scolded and terminated me. I’m a willing, honest and dedicated worker. When I make mistakes, I take responsibility and seek solutions for improvement. Over that last month, however, there was scrutiny. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. And then, bam…see ya.

And you know what? I AM GRATEFUL.

Oh, sure, I’m also feeling a mixture of injustice, anger, financial worry and general upset. With slight hints of self pity. I’m human. But in the end, this is clearly a case (as many friends have remarked in their own ways) where “god” or “the powers that be” are doing for me what I could not do for myself.

LifeIsBeautifulAbsolutely grateful:

  • It is a blessing to be free. I have been liberated from a place that handles professional affairs in a manner that I will not accept.
  • When one door closes, another one opens. Since being fired, I have received numerous offers to teach yoga in studios, at schools, for birthday celebrations, for nonprofits and more.
  • My confidence is boosted! I still must look for sustaining work (because teaching yoga does not pay the bills). And that last job – my first as a waitress/server – was at one of the most popular and busy restaurants in the city. So I am thankful for seven months of training and experience. Even while navigating interpersonal challenges with staff, I honed all of my past professional skills in customer service, marketing, event coordination, catering and more to become an awesome server. And I can take that anywhere. In the meantime, generous friends at a family-owned restaurant are giving me a few shifts, so I can keep up my chops.
  • That job was a gift. One of the managers knew that I’d had a tough year away and – knowing that I had little restaurant experience – gave me work, so I could come home to DC and start strong. Over those seven months, I was able to get on the road to financial recovery. And for these next five months, thanks to generous landlords, I have a roof over my head, and the potential to continue chipping away at bills and debt through new work.
  • I have some healing to do. I believe that I am a healthy woman. Truly. In body, mind and spirit. Thanks to that workplace experience, I am tackling yet another layer of sacred inner work. I had the opportunity to see how staff dynamics can trigger my PTSD – particularly now, after such a tough year with family dysfunction. Thanks to being healthy enough to take accountability for my part and see where I need to grow, I am venturing on a fresh direction toward wholeness.

*  *  *

“…she learned that surrender is quiet.” 
~ from “Snake Oil: The Art of Healing and Truth-Telling,”by Becca Stevens, founder of Thistle Farms, a nonprofit serving women recovering from addiction and sexual trauma.

I’m a fighter.

That’s exactly why the recent job termination meeting was such an ironic victory. I had good reason to defend myself. However, I was silent. As the list of “wrongs” was aired, I squirmed internally and took mental notes. At times, I couldn’t help but look surprised. Although frustrated, I pursed my lips. I kept my feet firmly on the ground, my hands resting on my legs, my mind clear and my mouth shut.

Surrender is quiet.

Funny – I’d read the above line from “Snake Oil” on the bus ride to the meeting with my boss. Chapter 3, “Seeds of Healing,” introduces us to a number of Thistle Farms program participants, who work producing healing balms, bath salts and oils for the nonprofit. “Val, like every employee of Thistle Farms, began every morning in the meditation circle before she began to work. She said during her time at Thistle Farms she learned that surrender is quiet. She says in order for her to heal and forgive, she has to surrender everything. Through the journey of surrender, she learned how much quieter it was than all the fighting in prison, with family, with the world.”

Interesting timing, eh? The evening after being fired, it hit me – I had been fighting a lot at that job. Fighting my own fear of failure and financial insecurity; fighting my own negative voices; fighting other’s accusations; fighting for consistency; fighting for staff accountability. After that much battle, it’s clear: the job simply wasn’t meant to be.

As for the family situation, I’m not as quiet. My grief tends to shout, and, I’m having a tough time quelling that voice. There’s still a bit of wrestling; but I know most of it is within my own soul.

Still, it can feel good to give up. To wave the white flag, and accept what’s here, now, real and true. That job is gone, and it’s time to move on. I can’t reach my father, so I must focus on other joys. For me, acceptance is the 1st step toward Samtosha – one of yoga’s five Niyama, or value-based observances, as described by the Eight Limbs in the Yoga Sutras. Samtosha means complete contentment with whatever exists. And such contentment has the potential to transmute into GRATITUDE for the silver linings or lessons. With consistent observance and practice of surrender, acceptance, contentment and gratitude comes the mindful serenity that yoga promises.

I have to ask myself:

Do I want to walk around in misery and resentment about my adversity; or, do I want to cultivate inner peace despite hardship and nurture forgiveness despite hurt – and therefore contribute to harmony around me and in the world?

*  *  *

Aside from mentioning it in the August Yoga Class Focus blog, I never officially wrote about the September and October theme of GROWTH. I reckon I was too busy growing, and encouraging the process in others. So here we are in November, jumping on the GRATITUDE bandwagon! It simply cannot be helped. C’mon, aside from being connected to Thanksgiving marketing, it’s the perfect tie-in to yoga philosophy. Not to mention, exploring GRATITUDE invites us to take stock, offering an inroad toward New Year’s Intentions.

Nearing the end of 2014, I might say that my last year included a doozy of bumps and bruises. Justifiably, I could focus on the family problems, the job loss, my ongoing PTSD issues and my related fears about the future. On the other hand, I could exercise the yogic tenant of Pratipaksha Bhavana, and replace those negatives with the positives listed above.

The act of being grateful gives me something warm to hold in my heart, even when the chill of adversity breaks it. Gratitude softens me enough to squarely face my wounds. It keeps my mind open to – eventually – giving thanks for what initially shut me down.

No matter where you are in the world, I wish you a day of THANKS-GIVING. Heck, with yoga’s guidance, we could enjoy an entire lifetime of gratitude. I’m certainly aiming for that.

*  *  *

Thank you for reading; and, thank you for practicing with me – even if/when you are miles away. OM Shanti.

Advertisements
 

Running Into Nature April 23, 2012

Filed under: Inspiration,Life,nature,Spirituality — Holly Meyers @ 8:39 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

The couch can be a dangerous place for me.

Running into nature is like running to safety.

Today I went into the woods with great mental confusion, weighty worry and enough fear to call “terror” – and I left it all there.  I came out with strength, hope, faith and belief.

*  *  *

I lost my peace this morning.

I’ve been facing misfortune for a while now.   I have been looking for full-time work without success, piecing together some part-time work with teaching and “working from home” on the job hunt and my yoga projects.  I am more isolated than ever, worried about how my bills will get paid and constantly wrestling with a negative mind.  I don’t sleep well, I grind my teeth and my dreams are weird.  I feel overwhelmed, burnt out and under-fed.  And lately, I have been getting in touch with the huge amount of fear I am existing with day-in and day-out.

The good news is: if it weren’t for my devoted yoga practice, I’d be feeling even worse.  Somehow I get through the days smiling (most of the time), able to connect (most of the time) and able to give (most of the time).

But to be completely frank – my primary mode of functioning through this is to deny the fear and push through.  So sometimes I crumble.  Like this morning.

*  *  *

There is a pattern.

I’m sitting at my desk, knowing what I should do, for the sake of accountability to others, for the sake of getting a job, for the sake of my well-being.  I start off with vigor and resolve.  And then like a shot of morphine creeping into the veins, the exhaustion hits.  I rapidly fade into fatigue.

And the couch calls out to me.

So today, just as I was curling up on the couch with my pillow and blankie, boo-hoo-ing about succumbing to slumber, a friend called.  Knowing I was sinking into oblivion and after already canceling a work-related meeting, I’d texted him to cancel our post-work plans.

When he called to see if I was OK, I fumbled for words, not wanting to tell the truth: “I am sinking into oblivion and would not be very good company.”  As I grasped for a good story, he figured it out.  “You need to get out,” he ordered.  I continued trying to explain that I was not feeling well and he repeated, “You need to get out.”  So I asked if he would come and hike with me after work and he answered, “No; you need to get out now.  For yourself.”  I continued mumbling…

“GET OUT!” he commanded, with urgency.

So I got out.

*  *  *

Into the woods I ran, as if something or someone was chasing me.

I don’t even remember the first 1/3 of the hike.  Somewhere along the way, I took a turn I’d never made before and walked toward the sound of rushing water until something about the trees and sky stopped me in my tracks.  I looked up, crying.  I searched for the right thing to pray.  I cried more.  I told the truth.  “I don’t have what I need.  I’ve tried everything.  I’m terrified.”

“Help.”

After a series of heart-felt confessions, prayers and sobs, I paused and listened.  The next thing that came to mind was:

“What do I need?”

The first answer was, “Money.”  I immediately realized it’s not that simple.

“Income.  And in order to have income, I need work.”  Yes.

And then the anxiety started to build again.  So again, the question arose:

“What do I need?”

And louder than bombs, I heard the words:

“STRENGTH…”

“HOPE…”

“FAITH…”

and then

“BELIEF.”

Realizing that I not only needed to tap into my own resources, but that I’d need the strength, hope, faith and belief of others, I added:

“SUPPORT.”

I knelt and touched the earth.  I awakened to the day, the forest, the water, the moss, the rain.  The smells and sounds of it all.  And I cried some more.

Returning along the path, I came to the crossroads where I’d turned off earlier.  I stood still with my eyes closed, doing nothing but listening, smelling, feeling.  Trying to figure out if I should head back home or walk a little more.  And then it came to me, “Running into nature is like running to safety.  So why would I leave?”  And onward I hiked.

*  *  *

Admittedly, I haven’t touched anything on my “to do” list since returning from the forest.  I made hot chocolate with cayenne and cinnamon; I ate some toast with sunflower butter and pomegranate jam; I wrote this blog.  And now I’m pretty darn tired and will most likely curl up on the couch for a nap.

Later this evening, I’ll reach out to friends and tell them that I need support.

I may have lost my peace today – but I also knew to take a break from my own mind (and the couch) to get into the vast expanse of nature.  Thanks to the willingness to ask for help, listen to suggestions and run toward safety, I am feeling the ease of accepting exactly where I am.  Which is much more peaceful than being paralyzed by confusion, worry and fear.

Tomorrow, I will see where this acceptance takes me when I sit down at my desk with that “to do” list again.

Wishing that all beings receive exactly what they need.  OM Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.