June 05, 2017 • Leave a Comment
It’d been awhile since I’d taken a true getaway vacation. Three years ago I traveled over to Boulder, Colorado to serve as a volunteer to help put on the five day Hanuman (yoga & music) Festival. As you may have seen on my Facebook page, I was there again for this years’ festival. That first year I went, I had such a great time my heart started to ache halfway through with the thought I’d eventually have to return home to my normal life. How neat would it be to live in such a wondrous place, surrounded by mountains, crystal clear streams, beautiful blue skies and a lifestyle totally focused on healthy living! I was ready to move in. But then a funny thing happened. I started talking to some of my fellow volunteers that lived in the area and got their take on what it was like to be a resident. Not everyone I spoke to realized they were living in paradise. Once we got past the obvious beauty of the landscape, they shared stories relating to daily life: escalating traffic issues, unemployment, through-the-roof housing costs and difficult winters. Tragedy has also struck the area in the way of forest fires one year, followed by massive flooding the next that nearly washed away whole towns. By the time I left, I had a new appreciation for my hometown of Kansas City. We have no mountains, but we’ve got some of the most beautiful parks in the country; Swope Park is one of the largest in the country. The economy is rolling along nicely thanks to the strength of the auto industry and the arrival of Google. My commute to work takes less than 10 minutes and although traffic can be a pain if you hit it at the wrong time, our road system is a fairly easy one to navigate. Last but certainly not least, the choices for participating in the yoga community are colored with variety. There are many top-notch studios available serving every part of the metro area. Donation based classes are increasingly common at varied locations all around the city, both indoors and outdoors when the weather’s nice.
Nope, all things considered I’ve got it pretty good living right here in the heartland. It certainly is nice to go off from time to time and get the experience other locales have to offer, but somehow those vacations are made even better by acknowledging the many positives that await the return home. Baseball game, anyone?
September 05, 2016 • Leave a Comment
This frog trying to fly at last weeks’ Yoga Rocks the Park reminded me of a special encounter I once had. Fifteen years ago I went through a transition career-wise, choosing to give up the business I owned for an opportunity to get into the growing IT industry. This involved going back to school to get retrained, passing numerous computer industry certification exams and the dreaded job hunt to land a job in my newly chosen vocation. The whole process was fraught with uncertainty. Day after day, week after week resumes went out – rejection letters were all I found waiting in the mailbox; if I heard anything back at all. The nagging voice of self-doubt started to creep in. Was I doing the right thing? Am I too old to change careers? Maybe I should give up my dream of getting into this field and keep doing what I’m doing for a living, even though deep inside I'm not happy any longer.
After many months of searching, I finally landed a job to maintain the computer systems at one of the largest high schools in Kansas City. Yeah! But to say I was nervous those first days would be an understatement. This was my first ‘real world’ experience touching very sophisticated and important equipment that allowed many people to do their jobs successfully. Armed with just the classroom training I had up to this point, I felt pretty uncertain about my ability to actually do the job out in the field. Fortunately my new employer partnered me up with a great guy named Tony who’d been providing support at the school for the previous two years and knew the layout front and back. All the staff, teachers and many of the students really loved this guy. He was outgoing, funny, knowledgeable and quick to get things back to working condition when called in to help.
Soon, the two weeks of training came to a close and the following Monday I was walking into this gigantic building full of technology expected to keep it all up and running. I was so unsure of myself and abilities going in to work that morning! I kept thinking, ‘How am I going to do this job like Tony does it!? I’m not nearly as qualified as him, don’t tell jokes like he can, don’t have the extroverted nature he does, what am I going to do if a real crisis strikes!?’ I couldn’t quite picture how I was going to BE in order to do this job successfully. So I just took a pause out there in the parking lot on my way in and asked for guidance. I thought a quick silent ask for help might do some good. In that precise moment I heard Divine Spirit, God, whatever you want to call it, communicate back so clear it actually startled me. I remember looking behind me thinking someone had just whispered something in my ear. Such a strong sense of understanding came over me in that moment based around this message: ‘Tim, just be yourself. You don’t have to do the job like Tony does it. Do it like you know you can and you’ll be just fine.’ The message was so simple, yet so comforting. I knew for certain in that moment I’d be okay and that nothing was going to happen that would so overwhelm me I’d launch complete catastrophe on the school district. No need to try and be something I’m not – the world just needs my unique contribution. It's good to be reminded of that, because sometimes I forget and actually try very hard to be what I am not; which can get to feeling pretty uncomfortable, like that frog must feel with a pole stuck up its butt all day.
May 05, 2016 • Leave a Comment
When I take self-assessment tests, I always struggle with answering the questions honestly. It seems obvious to me what the ‘right’ answers would be to come off looking good or to get placed into a category I think will yield the most benefit. I’ve learned from experience though, it’s really best just to go ahead and get real. The last thing you want to do is get committed to a situation that ultimately becomes uncomfortable to your very nature. Even so, I still have to catch myself trying to appear as something I’m not when doing these kinds of personal evaluation quizzes.
So when I did my first Ayurveda-based, dosha self-analysis - here - a few years ago, I had to fight the tendency to align myself with traits I perceived as appealing just to put myself into a ‘cool category’. Astrologically, I’m a Leo whose ruling planet is the sun so my inclination right off the bat was to answer from the fiery pitta point of view. Many of the typical pitta traits were also appealing to me, so before I even got done with the test I kind of assumed that… ‘Yeah, I’m that one.’ Now, I totally realize that taking a simple online quiz does not an Ayurvedic expert make me. It’s given me something more to study though and to appreciate a bit deeper, which I’ve tried to do. As my understanding of the other doshas has grown a bit and I started to honestly look at the full spectrum of my personae as they related to Ayurveda, it was the (not-so-appealing to me) kapha category that I found myself identifying with a lot more. For example, although I’ve actively exercised all my life on a fairly regular schedule, my free time is often spent in more sedentary activities. If I don’t consciously expend the energy to try new things and to push myself to get up and going, my real tendency is just to sink back into very familial routines. Oh, how I envy those happy-go-lucky vatas sometimes!
This leads me finally to one of my favorite hobbies. My early childhood was spent living very near the ocean. I had an uncle that took me sailing on a regular basis. I remember what a profound influence that had on me, like I was really being challenged somehow just sitting on that boat being guided by the wind, let alone being out in the ocean with no foreseeable boundaries or edges in sight. It was one of the first things I ever did that was both soothing and uncomfortable, at the same time. Many years later after our family moved to the Midwest, I went to a summer camp to learn how to sail myself. Although I loved learning how to navigate the breeze and spending time on the water; in many ways the activity itself felt very discomforting once again. I only went to this camp that one summer. The awkward, unsteady state of sailing stuck with me as a strong memory though. Then a few years ago I found myself in one of those doldroms periods and wanted to shake things up. I read somewhere a good way to get out of those times is to look back at hobbies you once enjoyed as an avenue to explore for excitement. So, I went out and bought a small sailboat. The couple of years I owned it turned out to be a great personal learning experience. I knew nothing about doshic tendencies – this being a few years before yoga took hold in my life. Again, I want to accentuate I’m certainly no expert on the matter of Ayurveda here, but as I look back on it now, I can see that sailing is about as vata an activity as something can get. It was a great thing to be doing to counterbalance my strong kapha tendencies without me even knowing it. It helps to explain the strange feelings I had wrapped up in the activity and also showed me how far back in life certain inherent traits can start to take hold. So what am I going to do more of this summer? Well, I don’t have my sailboat any longer but the idea of launching bubbles into the wind at Yoga Rocks the Park –KC this Sunday sounds like a great idea!
April 05, 2016 • Leave a Comment
I’ve attended a few classes lately where the idea of starting a home practice has been discussed. A couple of my fellow classmates mentioned it was something they’d like to do, but have a hard time mustering up the motivation to self-train for sixty or ninety minutes to match a typical studio class. There’s a pervasive thought in the fitness world that unless a workout period can go some minimum amount of time, it’s not much worth the bother to do anything at all. If you’re going to travel 20 minutes each way somewhere to work out 10 minutes, I might agree with that statement; but when it comes to practicing yoga at home, I’ll argue that any amount is worth the effort. One of the first activities we all do upon waking up from a deep sleep is to launch into a full body stretch. Whether yours resembles full-blown Vasisthasana or not, all the elements of a very short yoga practice are present in that moment: conscious body awareness, a big deep breathe and a surge of energy throughout the body. That rise-n-shine posture takes only a few seconds and we all know how wonderful that feels. Commitment to do something more can start with that. By recognizing there’s benefit to just that teeny bit of ‘practice’, it might be easier to lay down the mat later in the day for whatever time is available - even if it’s just a few minutes.
Your experiences with building a personal yoga practice would be much appreciated. Extra points for sharing pictures of your dedicated workout space if you have one!
March 05, 2016 • Leave a Comment
A few years back I came to an uncomfortable realization. In many ways, my life had congealed into a predictable pattern of mundane activities. As a kid growing up I avowed my life wouldn’t be governed by routine. I loved trying, doing and exploring things I’d never done before. Many summers of my childhood were spent working on the family farm steeped in the magic of the southern Missouri wilderness. We regularly played host to large groups of city-dwellers seeking to leave the familiar patterns of their lives behind in exchange for exotic adventure. They’d only stay a few days, but while at our place we’d lead them on horseback rides, woodland scouting expeditions, float trips, spelunking hikes, hayrides and many other activities that were anything but ordinary in comparison to the lifestyle they were accustomed. It was amazing to witness the dramatic change that would sometimes occur in peoples’ demeanor during their stay. I recall how sad I’d feel for them when their stay was over, having to leave the enchantment of our world to return back to whence they came.
Here, decades later though – about 5 years ago, I realized that I’d become one of those people my younger self felt sorry for way back then. Life had gotten pretty stagnant, repetitive and dull. I’d been living in Kansas City over twenty years, been working at my current employer for ten, nothing really much exciting was looming on the horizon.
The voice of discontent can be a great motivator. In my experience though, I’ve learned it’s important to tread cautiously through these times. It’s easy to fall into the trap of initiating some immediate, life stirring change in the hopes it’ll fix things. The purchase of a new boat or car might do the trick. Or perhaps I should quit my job, move to the ocean and live on the beach in a tent. Having done things like that before and come up just as empty after the big shake up, I’ve learned to be more patient with the process. So this time I did something different. What I did was… nothing, which is sometimes the best course of action to take. I’ve acted impulsively in the past – only to look back with regret on what I’d done. So I started going about my days looking for the joy, making note of the many things I had to be grateful for and taking positive little steps towards figuring out what the Universe was trying to show me. In order to do this, I had to turn down the volume of my rational mind that was telling me to just keep doing what I was doing and take comfort in how good I had it. I started relying on intuition more to guide some of my behavior, which immediately got me doing things and talking to people I otherwise wouldn’t have paid attention to. One thing I began to notice was that yoga was going on all around me. It seemed for a couple weeks straight in there somewhere I heard about yoga every day from some angle or another – people talking about it at work, articles in magazines I happened to pick up, or through social media.
Then one day I was at the coffee shop and a girl walked in who seemed very affable. She was very pretty and much younger than me. Rational mind immediately drummed up a hundred reasons why I shouldn’t reach out and talk to her. Oddly enough though, my intuition was saying the exact opposite. She’d already sat at the counter with her drink and I was admiring her t-shirt that was from Oregon, another thing I’d been hearing an awful lot about lately. There was such a pull towards talking to her it’s really hard to describe, but I didn’t have the courage to just go up and introduce myself – the whole beautiful girl thing, not to mention the big age difference. So I literally threw out to the Universe… ‘Okay, if I’m supposed to meet this person, if there’s some reason for it, she’ll come sit down at the table next to me.’ Well, less than one minute later she got up, looked my way, walked over, sat down! The hour plus conversation that ensued somehow ended up on the topic of yoga, not surprising given how much I’d been hearing about it from other sources lately. When we parted, she left me a card with a strong recommendation of a particular studio to try that had good beginner classes. In that moment, there was no doubt in my mind why our paths had crossed. Within the week I’d gone to my first yoga class and I haven’t looked back; even though my rational mind continues to tell me I’m too old for this activity, too sore, too male and a hundred other excuses to retreat back into my former comfort zone.
So there I was earlier in the week, looking over the photos I’d recently taken at the latest yoga event I attended. Something about this one caught my eye, even though it’s not that ‘artistically’ pleasing to me. Looking at it closer, the reason for its appeal became clearer. In a lot of ways it captures the struggle I was going through when I landed on the doorstep of yoga. The old, rigid structure of my life in the background – the building, concrete and metal sculpture, gives way to the more flexible elements in the foreground. It gave me pause to reflect on how it came to be that I was sitting there looking at this picture, grateful that I decided to change course a bit, pursue some new activities and reinvigorate my life by embracing new experiences. Om shanti, friends.
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