Motivational Monday: The Struggles Within

I had a great birthday weekend, but took some time off of writing and found that I really missed it.  Now, I'm back! Full of writing ideas and ready to go! On Saturday, I was taking a yoga class with my friend Nicole.  It was a fabulous, 90-minute hot vinyasa class in Baltimore and I'm happy we made the decision to go. Not only was it a great way to start the weekend, but the teacher was calm in voice, yet tough in action.  Drenched in sweat, I laid on my mat for final relaxation and tried to still my mind, but kept coming back to the same thought...

In yoga, some classes are "better" than others.  There are some days when I can flow from pose to pose and balance with perfection and others where I fall out of poses and struggle to still my mind.  In this particular class, my mind was racing during relaxation and I was thinking about the internal struggles that we create in ourselves.

During the "not so perfect" classes (spoken like a true Type A, huh?), I get frustrated and sometimes angry at myself for not having a class that was as good, if not better, than the last.  But, what if I just let myself be. Be present and mindful of what is going on, without judgement and without creating an unnecessary internal struggle?  What if I approached the class and each corresponding pose with a gentle love, not fight myself to stretch deeper or hold longer, but just allow myself to be in the moment and enjoy? What if I allowed the sweat to roll off my brow instead of wiping it off with frustration? Would that translate into life? If I could ignore the actual sweat on the mat, in class and not allow it to bother me, would I then be able to ignore the metaphorical sweat (aka problems or concerns) in life, off the mat and not get bogged down in worry?

I thought about Elizabeth Gilbert's travels in Eat, Pray, Love where she shared her experience of sitting under a tree and being swarmed by mosquitos.  Her instinct was to swat at them as they were biting her, but she remained still, chalking it up to small annoyances, rather than life rattling catastrophes that needed her immediate attention.  So, what if I could ignore the small irritants like sweat or mosquitoes? Would that open up mind space that could be used towards solving problems, rather than dealing with minor frustrations?

Like yoga, this idea is something that is practiced, not mastered.  Trying to let the small stuff roll off my back, like water on a duck, and focus on the things in life that really matter: being there for a friend in need, treating others with dignity and respect and not getting bogged down in catty "he said/she said," and being fully present when interacting with a loved one while not letting small inconveniences shake me to my core. Because those are the things that I would want from a friend or loved on, and we often get in return what we give out to others.

Digging Deep to find Gratitude...

In a season of giving and thanks, many of us, myself included, have gratitude that merely runs surface deep. That is to say, we are thankful for the things, people and concepts, which quite often only affect us in the most superficial of ways. I was confronted with this reality, while watching a segment on NBC's Today Show, featuring the tragically famous case of Charla Nash, the woman who was attacked, mauled, and ultimately dismembered by a friend's chimpanzee. The radical nature of her injuries, are the type that you might not believe had you not seen them with your own eyes.

As I watched her thank the medical staff who saved her life, I asked myself silently if I would want to live under the conditions and direction in which her life has been rerouted. And then I thought, this time aloud, as I watched her shake hands with only a portion of a palm and a thumb and hug with half of her forearm missing, "She must have to dig really deep for her daily gratitude."

Everything about the way she lives her life changed in a few minutes.  The way in which she interacts with the public, as she now chooses to wear a veil.  Her daily surrender, as she must ask for help with cooking, getting dressed and brushing her teeth.  When I'm thankful for finding a parking spot close to my destination, she is thankful that her breathing is accomplished without assistance.  While I'm thankful for heat on a cold day, she is thankful that she has loved ones willing to help her in all areas of day-to-day operations.  And while I replay the words of a recent argument over again in my mind, she has the knowledge that her life will never be the same, for circumstances that are outside of her control... It is after we experience sadness or tragedy, that we can fully taste the sweetness of happiness and joy.  Without one emotion, we don't have the perspective to embrace the opposite.

My heart goes out to Ms. Nash,  because I imagine how I would feel after walking a mile in her shoes, but perhaps her shoes are softer and she is truly thankful, on a level that I may never understand, for all of the things that I take for granted everyday.