Defining Moments

Each of us have moments throughout our lives that come to define us. It might not even seem like a memorable event at the time, but looking back years later we come to realize that it was an important turning point for us. One of the things I find most beautiful about the human experience is how often some of our darkest hours turn into something to be grateful for down the road. We are able to find resiliency and meaning in the most difficult and harrowing of circumstances.

For some reason, I have really been contemplating my past recently. When I was younger it seemed like my memory was an organized folder of events laid out in order. As I’ve collected more and more experiences though, that folder has become a complete mess with huge sections that seem to be missing entirely. As a child, I was sure I’d want to remember everything about my life and have detailed records to look back on fondly once I was older. However, at some point, maybe around the end of high school, I changed my mind. It felt like I was collecting a lot of notebooks full of worthless musings rather than important accounts of my daily life. Besides, I had yet to feel any need to look back through those early diaries.

Now it seems like I’ve changed my mind yet again. I’m quite distressed by how cluttered and unclear my memory has become. At some point I’d like to start working on a timeline of my life, adding details of whatever form as they come to me. That is a daunting endeavor, but I thought I could at least start by recounting some of the significant, what I would consider “defining moments” of my adult life.

1. Discovering Neuroplasticity

This may seem like a silly, impersonal moment to consider as one that defined who I am now, but looking back I know I would not be where I am today without it. Although my education in psychology has not necessarily been a great financial decision in the long run, it provided me with a wealth of information that is priceless to me. I wanted to study in this field because the brain has always fascinated me. I wanted to understand what is was about me that made me feel so different and separate from everyone else. I wanted to learn what was “wrong” with me and how to fix it.

One of the most impactful, useful pieces of knowledge I collected in this pursuit was the concept of neuroplasticity. From the brief bits of psychology I had learned before that, I had assumed that after a certain age (an age I had already unfortunately passed) the brain stopped developing. I felt hopelessly trapped in the thinking patterns and habits that I had already unconsciously been developing my whole life. I wasn’t happy at the time, so I would never be happy.

Finding out that no matter how old we are we have the ability to actively and intentionally change the pathways in our brains, strengthening and forming new connections, was groundbreaking. For the first time in my life, I really felt like I had control over my own happiness. It gave me the hope and confidence I needed to finally trust in all the woo-woo self help nonsense I had always cast aside as wishful thinking. That was the day my journey to create myself truly began.

2. Hopelessness, Helplessness, and Heartbreak

The second defining moment I had as an adult was losing the love of my life for the second time. Although it happened once before, I felt the second instance was more devastating, more final. When this person came back into my life after years of no contact, I actually cried from sheer joy and gratitude. I still remember wishing I believed in God at the time so I would have someone to properly thank for my unimaginable good fortune. Little did I know that hardly over a month later, I would have been cursing that same God as it all came tumbling down around me.

I won’t get into the details, but when he left that day, the pain was so great that I numbed myself from it. I sat is silence for a long time. I was speechless, directionless. I felt utterly hopeless. I felt no other option other than to surrender to that immense ocean of sorrow before me. But that surrender allowed something beautiful to bloom inside me. It made me realize that clinging to the image of happiness I had always had in my head, wouldn’t make it any more possible. I accepted that perhaps I may never achieve that particular dream.

As heartbreaking as it was to let that dream go, when I did it allowed me the space I needed to realize that what I had been envisioning certainly wasn’t the only possible form of happiness. I knew that I had the ability to craft another, different, yet equally happy life for myself. Even if that life would be one I’d spend alone. At that moment I felt a shift. I felt a swell of energy inside me, urging me not to give up just yet.

This is the night I remember when I hear people talking about their “dark night of the soul.” Painful as it was, it taught me that I am much stronger than I thought I could be. It has given me a new image of my inner strength and resilience. It forced me to finally take the reigns of my own life.

3. Yoga Teacher Training

The previous life events were what I believe ultimately prepared me to delve deeper into my yoga journey. When the stars aligned and I somehow found myself in teacher training, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Before then I thought yoga was just about exercise and flexibility. I was shocked and delighted to find that there was so much more to it than that. I am so grateful for all of the amazing things I learned in teacher training that have helped me to continue to deepen my own practice.

It has even helped repair my relationship with spirituality in general. After years of ardent atheism following a Christian upbringing, I never thought that I would be open to anything anywhere near religion or “faith” ever again. I still consider myself an atheist, but that hostility and hatred I once harbored for anything religious or spiritual has finally faded. Yoga has helped me make peace with a lot of the grey areas of life and make peace with myself in general. It is a privilege and an honor to be able to share what I’ve learned and continue to learn with my students each week.

Overall, the combination of these three events in my life completely changed the trajectory I felt my life was on when I was younger. Contemplating these moments reminds me just how amazing this life really is. Just when I start to feel like I know it all and can predict exactly what will happen for me next, life surprises me yet again. What a beautiful thing it is to be a part of this world. I can’t wait to find out what else the universe has in store for me. Stay curious, keep learning, and be open to everything that comes your way. You never know how important it might be.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

How I Was Raised

When I was little, my sister and I were both amazingly advanced for our ages. We were quick witted, intelligent, and talented even when we were in preschool. It’s strange to look back and realize that. Especially now that I’m working with children everyday. I finally understand the excitement I’d often see in the adults around me as a child. No matter how you come into contact with a gifted child, even if you have no real connection to them, it is still an incredibly invigorating thing to behold. I’ve met quite a few children of all different ages who’ve stood out to me and everyone I work with. We all still remember them and reminisce about them occasionally. It’s wild to imagine that I was once one of those kinds of kids. Perhaps that’s how my second grade teacher managed to remember me when she saw me working in a grocery store so many years later.

The weirdest thing for me about all of this is the fact that I had no idea that I stood out when I was younger. Especially considering I was always comparing myself to my sister who was also very gifted, but had a few years on me as well. I do remember a couple teachers making a fuss over me. I think my first grade teacher even asked me if I would show my drawings to her parents when they came one day. I obviously can’t be sure, but I think one of the main reasons I never paid much attention to the compliments of these people was due to the indifference of my own family. That in addition to never measuring up to my sister, left me always feeling inferior no matter how great my personal accomplishments really were.

My mother’s lack of enthusiasm and praise for anything I did is one of the reasons I grew to resent her in my teenage years. How could she respond to my achievements so callously? Once I began to realize just how much potential I had as a young child, it really stung to know she didn’t encourage and compliment me more. I even began to believe that it was because she didn’t really love me very much. Despite the attention I always received from the other adults in my life and even my peers, it was never able to replace the recognition I longed for from my own mother. I believe this has greatly contributed to my current inability to acknowledge my own successes and talents.

I’ve brought this up to my mother in the past. I should have known she had only the best intentions at heart. Nearly everything she did as a mother was carefully calculated. Unlike most parents, she actually read parenting books and did a lot of research on the best ways to raise a child before she had my sister and I. Unfortunately given the time period, there was quite a bit of bad advice in those books back then. I’m not sure if she read this particular idea in her books, but it does seem to make logical sense either way. She told me that the reason she didn’t lavish my sister and I with praise over our amazing talents was because she thought it would make us conceited and full of ourselves. She didn’t want us to become little brats. I can definitely see how that might have been the result. So now I can’t say whether or not I’d have changed my childhood if I could or not.

This example is just one of the many reasons I would never want to have children. It seems that no matter what route you take in raising them, there will be some unintended negative consequences. My mother also always provided everything I needed. She took care of everything for me. At first this seems like she was being a perfect parent. However, the end result was actually that I feel completely incapable of doing most things for myself. Whereas my friend’s mother was a mess. She ended up having to take on a lot of the responsibility of raising herself and her younger siblings. But a childhood like that actually made her a much more competent and self assured adult. There is simply no way to not make mistakes when raising a child. You are going to fuck them up in one way or another regardless of how hard you try not to.

I may not be able to change the past, but I am still able to learn from it. Maybe I do feel like I’m never good enough because of the way my mother chose to raise me. I don’t blame her for that. She did the best she could and overall she did a pretty amazing job, in my opinion. All I can do now is try to tend to the child that still resides within me. I don’t need the approval and acknowledgement of others, even my own mother, to feel worthy of my place in this world. I am good enough just as I am, regardless of how I measure up to those around me. I can give myself the recognition I once so desired to receive from my mom. I may not be the gifted child I once was, I may not stand out much at all anymore, but I am still an incredible, unique, masterpiece. There has never been, nor will there ever be someone quite like me. The things I create and contribute to this world matter. I have the ability to add love, beauty, laughter, and joy to this world in a way that only I can. And I don’t need anyone else’s permission to do so.

5 BEST Toddler Art Activities for Creative Exploration

What A Beautiful Life

The last few days I’ve been watching a lot of videos about what life was like in the Victorian Era. While the things I’m learning are extremely interesting, they are also quite horrifying. I discovered just how unsafe it was to be alive during that time period, let alone all of the rest of human history. People would meet their death doing things as simple as taking a bath, eating food from the market, having a bathroom installed in their home, having colorful wallpaper, etc. It seems as though there were unlimited dangers all around that weren’t yet fully understood or identified.

It’s very interesting to me how I am able to simultaneously marvel at human achievements throughout history and also be dumbstruck at our sheer recklessness and stupidity. On both fronts it seems incredible that we have managed to make it this far. It really puts a lot of things into perspective for me. Generally I have expected a lot out of the human race. Perhaps that’s because when we’re young we are surrounded with the idea that humans are the pinnacle of evolution, fabulous, unique, God-like beings. At least that’s the impression I seemed to get about what most humans thought of our species. Yet in every waking moment, I seemed to be confronted with human limitation and outrageous foolishness. It would be a constant source of frustration. People never seemed to live up to the standards I had set for them. Not even I was able to meet those standards.

History used to be one of my favorite subjects. But as we learned more and more it seemed like the only things that mattered in recorded history were wars and politics. These things are certainly interesting, but there is so much more to history that I would have rather explored. Learning about society and the way other generations lived awakens a fierce gratitude within me for the luxuries of the time period that we live in. So many simple conveniences that we take for granted were not so long ago unimaginable. I’ve been reflecting on the amazing benefits we now have such as electricity, running water, plumbing, cars, medicine, technology, the internet, the list could go on and on. Most of us tend to use these conveniences everyday without thinking twice about them.

As you know I spend a lot of time worrying about the end of the world. The end seems more and more inevitable each and every day. However, learning about the history of humanity, makes me less concerned about it for some reason. I’m left just feeling grateful that we made it this far. It seems like each moment is an incredible gift. It seems selfish and ungrateful to complain that I won’t get more. In my twenty seven years of life I have already had more pleasure than entire populations had in a lifetime. I’ve allowed myself to feel so cheated that I may not get to live out my life and die of old age as it feels I was promised as a young child. However, when I think about it, I was never even guaranteed the time I’ve already had. Had I lived in any other time period, or even in a different part of the world today, I might have already succumbed to some horrendous illness or accident. This shift in perspective has been extremely therapeutic for me. It has made me feel lighter and reflect on my good fortune.

From now on I plan to work on being grateful for each moment I am given. However much life I have left on this earth will be more than enough. How absurd it now seems to complain when I have so much. Gratitude is truly the cure for so many psychological woes. Perhaps there is no better or more powerful feeling. Even love itself is a form of gratitude. And I really do love this life. I love the many beings I have been lucky enough to share it with. Each day is filled with so many unbelievable blessings. Nice clothing and bed linens, a safe, warm home, a cup of coffee, a hot shower, fresh fruits and vegetables, clean water. How insane the people of the past would think us for finding anything to complain about or to be dissatisfied with. What a beautiful life.

Photo by Austin on Pexels.com

Mindful Rewards

By the time evening came around yesterday, I was utterly exhausted. Every day this month, I have been tackling a cleaning task around my house, systematically going through and deep cleaning/organizing every single room. And I’ve been making good progress. Yesterday I decided to finally clean out my fridge. Not just sort through and rearrange things, but actually clear it out entirely, wash all the shelves, the inside, and the outside. It ended up taking much longer than I thought it would, and by the time I was finished I was wiped out and ready to relax.

However, I am never able to relax. While my fridge does look immaculate now, giving me great pleasure every time I glance inside, I still don’t feel accomplished. There is an ever-present twinge of disappointment and anxiety at the end of the day. When I try to figure out why I am feeling that way, any rational explanation eludes me. The feeling is like those blurry little squiggles at the edge of your vision. When you try to look directly at them, they immediately move just out of sight.

I feel compelled to list everything I did yesterday, just to prove to myself it was a lot:

  • Write a blog post
  • Study Spanish
  • Read
  • Gratitude Journal
  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • 60min. Cardio Workout
  • Draw
  • Reports for work
  • Wrap Christmas gift
  • Deep clean fridge

That seems like a lot right? Somehow even after listing it all, I still feel unsure. I still don’t feel like I’ve accomplished anything at all. I feel like I could have done more, should have done more. But I feel like anyone else would be highly impressed. I do these things or the equivalent each and every day. I never give myself a day off. I never feel I deserve one.

One of the many things I’d like to start implementing in the coming year is setting aside some time each day or week to mindfully reward myself for all of my hard work. Even just scheduling an hour on a Friday to focus on myself and what I really would enjoy. Maybe I could take a relaxing bath with a book and some wine. Maybe I could give myself a few hours to just play video games in bed. I could buy myself something nice that I’ve been wanting. Just normal every day things that generally make me feel guilty on the rare occasions when I do them. I want to practice giving myself more credit for all that I accomplish every day. So that I may actually start to feel accomplished for once.

I’m pretty good at delaying gratification, my problem is actually giving myself the gratification at all. I think “oh, I’ll just put it off a little longer” or “I’ll do a few more things first.” I’ve finally realized that the reward at the end never comes. I continue to push it farther into the future. Well, not any longer. It is time for me to finally give myself the rewards I so richly deserve. I want 2021 to be a year of self-reflection, rest, and self-love. It’s time.

Photo by Taryn Elliott on Pexels.com

The Mirror of Yoga

Photo by Elly Fairytale on Pexels.com

A yoga practice is quite often a reflection of the yogi’s inner life. Yoga has the potential to be a window into our personal struggles, fears, strengths, weaknesses, and much more. Even before I knew about the spiritual side of yoga, I could feel it changing the way I thought about and perceived the world as well as my place within it. Those who have a personal yoga practice as simply exercise or stretching like I once did, still can’t avoid the deeper impact and insight it provides.

It is a rare opportunity to go within, to be alone with ourselves, to notice the patterns of our own minds. Are we easily frustrated? Are we critical of ourselves at every turn? Is it hard to let go? Is it hard to be still? To remain focused on what’s in front of us? Can we learn to settle our minds, to use our breath? Yoga provides us with a chance to learn all of these things about ourselves. When we practice yoga, we are not only training the body. We are also training the mind.

I have noticed my own struggles reflected in my practice lately. It has felt like my safe haven recently, a way to escape from my reality. Yet yoga has a way of showing us things, even things we don’t want to see. Having an “escape” inevitably begs the question, why is one needed? Allowing my practice to be a shield from the rest of my life, has caused it to become rather stagnant. I feel stuck. Just as I do overall right now.

Our daily lives feed our practice just as much as our practice feeds into our lives. That vital loop has been severed for me for awhile now. It is hard to feel passionate, inspired, playful, or courageous in your practice when you aren’t able to feel that way day to day. It is hard to practice self-love, self-care, compassion, and ahimsa in a one hour vacuum. It is hard to teach from the heart, when you have been hiding your heart from even yourself.

Lately my practice, while always an enjoyable time of peace, rest, and rejuvenation, has felt like hypocrisy at the same time. I am isolating myself within my yoga, instead of allowing the nutrients of my practice to sate the gnawing pangs of my real life problems.

My yoga mirror has been showing me the reflection of my fear, my avoidance, my inertia. I am afraid to challenge myself. I am afraid that I won’t be able to rise to those challenges. I am afraid to fail, to fall. I have remained in one place for so long, not progressing in life, nor my asanas. Telling myself I can’t do it before I have even given myself the chance to try.

But I should know better. Because yoga has also taught me that there is no reason to be afraid. There is no reason to fear failure. Because even failure is not final. When you are learning to do a headstand, you are going to fall. A lot. If I had taken that first failure as proof I was incapable, my body would not be able to do any of the incredible things I’ve taught it to do. Yoga teaches us that failure is a necessary part of growth. When you fall, you laugh, get up, and try again. And with each fall, you learn something new. I need to engage my core more. I need to place my hands wider apart. I need to focus. I was holding my breath. Failure is not something to avoid, it is a valuable chance to learn vital information.

I want to use these lessons and the many others yoga has given me. I want to move forward in my practice, in life. I want to try new things. To be playful again, curious, excited. To laugh and learn and love myself despite my missteps along the way. No matter what happens, I know I’ll always have a safe place to rest. On the mat, and within. We all do.

Photo by Tasha Kamrowski on Pexels.com

The Importance of Reflection

I’ve been really struggling with accepting myself recently. While awaiting the return of a potential love interest, I am consumed with this feeling that I won’t be good enough for this person. I feel as though I’ve run out of time to improve myself and now I am going to spoil an important moment with my imperfections. While I can’t help but try to franticly make changes to myself due to this, realizing I don’t have enough time anyway has brought me to reflex on how far that I’ve come already.

Today I did a beautiful yoga session and meditated in the grass covered in sunlight. I completed vinyasas and held poses I never would have dreamed of myself practicing a few years ago. My meditation wasn’t the best I’ve ever had. Yet I’ve integrated this practice into my everyday life and I have become a better person for it. I practiced Spanish even though I’m making incredibly slow progress. Regardless of my improvement, I’m proud of myself for my persistence. I know because of it, I’ll get to my goal no matter how long it may take. I read a book by Thich Nhat Hanh called Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames and gained more insight into how to be compassionate to myself and with others. I did an intense workout that my body would not have been nearly strong enough to complete in the past.

If the version of myself I was in high school knew who she would be at this point only a handful of years down the road, I think she would be very excited. So I should be excited about the journey ahead of me and enjoy it. I’ve already accomplished so much for myself. I am definitely a better person than I used to be and that’s all that I can truly compare myself with.

I don’t know why it has always been so hard for me to be proud of myself or feel that I’ve been or done enough. Part of me is afraid that if I allow myself to enjoy my successes thus far, I’ll become lazy and stop progressing. But I think it’s important to acknowledge where you are now and be happy with it. I’m still working on figuring out how to do that. I’m happy that I’ve even been able to notice this behavior and be mindful of it. Even that is something I was never able to do in the past. I know that I’m on the right path. I just need to remind myself not to get too anxious about the distance ahead of me. Because regardless of the what the future holds, it will definitely be better if I practice loving and accepting myself now.

♥

31936790_1837074609670981_4107545274073743360_n