The Stretch

I used to do a lot of yoga. I’m not a naturally flexible person so yoga was a particular challenge for me. Not only was it a challenge to reach for my toes in a forward bend, but it was also a challenge to avoid looking in the mirror to see just how far I had to go. I hated that feeling of stretch, of being unable to do something I set out to do.

But I stuck with it. I kept pushing that edge, easing into it and sitting with the intensity until it subsided then easing into it again, this time a little farther, playing that edge of pain and fear, not quite going straight into it, but just pushing the border. Once in a Yin Yoga class we held a hip opener for a million years, and I felt my right hip relax beyond any relaxation point it had reached before, and I suddenly thought that this relaxation might be boundless and therefore my body might be boundless and then what did that mean for me? Panic rose up through my chest along with the urge to run out of the room, and I might have had my leg not felt like it wasn’t a part of me anymore.

Stretching changes things. It changes me and my idea of myself. It opens spaces in my body that I didn’t know were closed.

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Yoga Flashback

Several times a week throughout 2004, I biked from our apartment in East Palo Alto to the yoga studio in Palo Alto, my yoga mat bungeed to my bike rack. The trip was nearly over when I came up through the cool, urine-smelling tunnel under the Caltrain tracks and squinted into the bright sunlight on California Avenue. About halfway up the block, I locked my bike, tucked my helmet under my arm, and slung my mat bag over my shoulder, then walked the short distance to the studio.

Inside the glass doors were potted plants and racks of high-end yoga wear and the diffuse odor of extinguished incense. There were meditation, chanting, and yoga music CDs, one of which was always playing quietly over the sound system.

Behind the curved wood desk to the left sat a tall, smiling woman with a German accent who invited me to sign in and to have a cup of tea from the urn in the corner by the glass wall that separated the retail space from the class space. When I started working there one evening a week for the discount on classes, I would be in charge of emptying the old tea and refilling the urn with fresh for the following day. It was a little thrill to know that I was in charge of what kind of tea everyone would enjoy the next day from the tiny ceramic cups I’d just washed.

After sliding out of my Birkenstocks, I pushed aside the heavy velvet curtain and entered the studio itself. The right-hand wall was floor-to-ceiling mirrors and the wall to the left was a leafy mural in yellows and greens. I lay my mat near the mural wall and walked to the back wall where there was a stash of blankets, straps, mats, and wooden blocks. Through the doorway next to the yoga gear were the curtained changing areas and the restrooms and the small storage room where I washed the tea cups in the utility sink on my co-op nights. After choosing a blanket, I returned to my mat to stretch and try to avoid looking like I was looking at myself in the mirror until class started.

When class was over, I stumbled out glassy-eyed and biked home across the San Francisquito again.

Eight years, two children, and more than 3,000 miles separate me from this ritual. Time for yoga is hard to come by most days, but this afternoon the stars aligned and my children and cats let me do about an hour of practice with only minimal interruption.

I set up my yoga mat on the wood floor of my bedroom, situated so I wouldn’t graze my fingers on the ceiling fan blades, and situated my laptop on top of my dresser. As I listened to a Vinyasa Flow class on audio, breathing my arms overhead and exhaling my palms to the floor, I thought of the yoga studio in Palo Alto—the California sun, the smell of incense, the sound of Krishna Das or Karma Moffett, the reclaimed wood floor beneath my feet.

No matter what the sounds, sights, or smells of the place I’m actually practicing, when I do yoga, I’m there.

Where do you go when you find yourself transported?

Course Correction: The Little Audacious Plan

I was going to start a Big, Hairy, Audacious Plan on October 1st. It was going to be awesome. It was going to last more than a year and by the end I was going to be fitter, healthier, better rested. I’d know how to play the piano, would speak Spanish fluently, would be submitting stories and essays for publication on a regular basis, and would have read and comprehended at least one dozen literary classics.

But then reality sunk in.

At first I mistook reality for my husband being a naysayer for questioning my plan.* I called him that and many other things and then I went to bed. Even though I have not been sleeping well at all (~5 hours a night, interrupted by my three-year-old), I could not go to sleep. I lay there for an hour trying to fake my way to sleep until I finally got up and made my jittery, anxious self go to the kitchen and journal while I ate a snack.

It was during this time that I realized that I was just totally fried. The insomnia, the digestive symptoms, the eczema, the weight fluctuations, the anxiety—all of it was related. And none of it would be solved by my Big, Hairy, Audacious Plan.

So I devised another plan. A Little Audacious Plan. A Gentle Audacious Plan.

It goes like this:

1) Deactivate my personal Facebook profile. Yes, I know it was less than six months ago that I reactivated it with my cleverly devised pseudonym and all of that. I had very good reasons for doing so, but over these months I realized that, although it’s not the only cause of my being fried, my interactions on Facebook certainly weren’t fostering calm and a sense of wellbeing. On the contrary, they were making me anxious. They were making me irritable. They were making me want to move to the frozen north of Canada and live in a travel trailer with nothing but caribou and lichen and permafrost to keep me company. I lamented the fact that I would not be able to grow a beard in this scenario. Instead, I deactivated my Facebook account in a fit of insomnia. Also a rash decision, but perhaps not as rash as Option A. (My Imperfect Happiness Facebook Page remains intact, as does my @imperfecthappy Twitter account.)

2) Meditate. Like a lot of meditation. Formal meditation twice a day and informal (reminding myself to take a deep breath or, if necessary/possible, lying on the floor with my eyes shut for a few breaths at least once an hour).

3) Practice Gentle Yoga. At least thirty minutes a day of the slow-moving, breath-led variety as part of my bedtime routine. This isn’t for physical fitness; it’s for activation of my parasympathetic nervous system.

4) Write. Since I was seven, I’ve been told that I was a “great writer.” Over the years, I’ve gotten more and more bogged down by the contradiction between being told that I was a “great writer” and struggling with that very activity. If I’m a great writer, why is it so difficult? If I’m a great writer, why didn’t I get more than a polite rejection letter for that short story I submitted in 2004? Why did I get rejected for that incredibly competitive writing fellowship with the famous author’s name attached to it? Why didn’t I get into the renowned MFA program? Why didn’t I win higher than fifth place in that writing competition in seventh grade? I could reason through only one very painful conclusion: I am not a great writer. After several years of mourning, I finally decided that even if I wasn’t a great writer, I still wanted to be a writer. I don’t have to be great to have fun. So, that’s what I’ll be trying to do with Brenda Miller and Holly Hughes’s The Pen and the Bell. With a different focus area in each chapter, this book leads the reader through exercises designed to access the shared benefits of both writing and contemplative practice. I’ll focus on one chapter a month, writing every day using the exercises outlined at the end of each chapter. With any luck, this will help me to rediscover the joy and fun that writing used to hold.

There are some other nitty-gritty guidelines I plan to practice around internet usage, media consumption, fostering compassion, and building relationships, but these are the high points. I’ll plan to check in weekly and let you know how I’m doing.

The formal writing practice will begin October 1st. For items 1 through 3, I’m not waiting until October 1st; I’m starting right now.

*I still think my husband was being a naysayer, but that doesn’t mean he was wrong.

 

Book Review: Poser: My Life in Twenty-three Yoga Poses by Claire Dederer

Poser: My Life in Twenty-three Yoga Poses
Poser: My Life in Twenty-three Yoga Poses by Claire Dederer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I almost stopped reading this book about 50 pages in. I was enjoying Dederer’s writing, with all of its pithy GenX-ness, but I found her perspective very critical. She seemed to have concluded, since she felt pressured by her peer group to practice attachment parenting and it didn’t work for her, that anyone who practiced attachment parenting was doing it because of social pressure. Attachment parenting devotees were some kind of Stepford Wives, blindly following the dictates of the masses. She ignored the idea that maybe attachment parenting works for some people and it didn’t work for her. And she described What to Expect When You’re Expecting as a left-wing book. I don’t know many of my peers who would describe any book that doesn’t list non-reclining positions for pushing as a left-wing book. We all hated that book. We gravitated towards Ina May Gaskin and Sheila Kitzinger and Penny Simkin and Henci Goer. Had we been less ecologically and free-speech inclined, we would have burned What to Expect When You’re Expecting.

Basically, I took Dederer’s judgements personally, which is kind of ridiculous. I mean, she doesn’t know me. We gave birth to our first children five years and nearly 1000 miles from one another. We’re part of the same generation, but just barely.

Knowing this, I soldiered on through the rest of the book, and I’m glad I did because this book is all about personal growth. I felt a kinship to Dederer as she moved from being guarded and judgmental to being more open and accepting of other ways of raising children and even other ways of living. Although I was on the other side of the fence (e.g., my first child refused a binky so I became militantly opposed to them by my second child), I recognized her journey from traumatic birth experience through anxious early motherhood through gradual comfort with her chosen path separate from what her peers were doing.

Although Dederer places a lot of value on staying in one’s hometown, this is a particular downside to staying put, at least from my perspective. I have never had a hometown. I moved every three years as a child. As a grown-up, the longest I’ve lived in any one place is six years. Until I joined Facebook, I didn’t even know what my elementary school friends thought of different parenting practices, much less what they thought of me for being a weirdo mommy. It is in some ways liberating to be a nomad, to lose touch with my past and trick myself into believing that because it’s not underfoot, it’s not always with me.

But by the end of the book I found myself jealous of Dederer. She finds the secret for her, which is to move away for a couple of years and then come “home”. I like this idea, but without a “home,” this is simply not an option for me. My whole life has been “away.” Even if I moved to where my dad is or where my mom is, I wouldn’t have a network of lifelong friends to tap into because the friends of my childhood are scattered across the country. I’m equally at home everywhere, and I’m equally a stranger everywhere. Dederer’s voluntary exodus from and then voluntary return to her home just highlighted for me how much I don’t have a home. It kind of pissed me off. I wanted a place to go home to, goshdarnit!

Even as it pissed me off, though, I delighted in watching Dederer’s journey. I could relate to the growth-through-yoga that she experienced. Many of her fears and realizations seemed very familiar to me. I especially appreciated her chapter about handstand. I first attempted handstand in yoga teacher training. There an Iyengar teacher described me as “beyond clumsy” in handstand. It was a caution to another student about me in front of me: “Be careful,” he said, “she’s beyond clumsy.” Meaning, “Watch it because she’s likely to fall on you while you’re trying to assist her.” I know it’s silly, but this teacher’s words have echoed in my mind at practically every yoga practice I’ve done since. I’ve gradually allowed it to become background noise rather than letting it take center stage, but I sure as heck haven’t tried handstand since then. (Well, once during a workshop, but I embarrassingly dissolved into tears, and I haven’t tried since then.)

As a clumsy, non-svelt yoga practitioner whose limited flexibility has been hard-won, I liked reading about yoga from the perspective of someone who isn’t a former gymnast or ballet dancer. Someone who doesn’t “float” from uttanasana into chaturanga. Someone with hips.

Some reviewers have complained that the links between Dederer’s personal reflections and the poses for each chapter are rather tenuous. I agree to a point. Some chapters did seem to be “yoga pose” + “everything else,” most notably the child’s pose chapters in which she recalled episodes from her childhood. But the chapters with the more forced connection between pose and narrative were the minority. For the most part, I found the link between yoga and her stories to be pretty close.

The part I loved best was watching Dederer accept her reality in a less judgmental way. Rather than comparing herself to everyone else and/or throwing out what she’d built and trying to start over again as her mother had, Dederer took what she had and made it something that worked better for her. I find this inspirational. Even if it does involve having a hometown and a greater skill at making friends than I have.

View all my reviews

Sitting With Disequilibrium

I’ve been feeling very much off-kilter for the past couple of weeks. I’ve been working hard to just let myself feel off-kilter, but I much prefer to take a situation and reason it into submission if it’s not turning out the way I want it to. I’m a big fan of creating plans. And schedules. And lists. And making major changes and not waiting around for the dust to settle before making another major change.

But I’m still meditating. Still meeting with myself every morning to confront the very noisy silence and the restlessness in my body that just wants to get up and DO something.

Every morning I whine to my husband that I just don’t want to meditate.

Every morning I find piddling little tasks to postpone the trek downstairs to the yoga mat and the meditation cushion. I need to put these beans on to soak. I need to look up that smoothie recipe for breakfast. I need to set out today’s homeschool books in a line on the table, even though they’re all going to get stacked out of the way before we can start the math lesson anyway.

And then I pout and stomp downstairs and sit or stretch or sit and stretch, even though the struggle to get there is tough and the short-term benefits are minimal. Many times these past couple of weeks I’ve lamented that meditation “just isn’t working anymore.” But still I keep on doing it.

This week, though, several things have come together to help me feel a little more optimistic and to see that maybe the meditation is still “working,” it’s just on a different time scale than the one I’ve got in my head.

The other day, Leigh from Live Your Bliss posted about the detoxification effects of the Gerson Therapy for cancer. The “lots of veggies” shift I’ve made in my diet over the past month hasn’t been nearly (nearly) as intense as the protocol for the Gerson Therapy, but it’s still significant. Leigh’s post reminded me that perhaps some of my sense of disequilibrium (physical and emotional) is a sign that my body’s adjusting to the healthier diet and letting go of the cravings and other things I don’t need.

The weather has been warm and the children cooperative, so I’ve been able to walk every day this week. On Monday, we took an hour-long hike and found our first letterbox. On Wednesday, the kids and I walked to the library and back (5 miles round-trip). Tuesday and Thursday, the kids and I took little 20-minute walks around the neighborhood, the toddler in the mei tai on my chest and zipped into my jacket, my daughter’s hand in mine. I don’t know if it’s the vitamin D or the fresh air or the exercise or just the promise of spring (or the oxytocin from the pleasant closeness with my kids), but walking has brought me a sense of peace each day.

Then today my daughter’s history lesson was about ancient India and included a brief retelling of the story of the birth of Siddhartha, aka Buddha. After our walk, the kids and I snuggled on the bed and read Buddha by Demi, which included more details about Siddhartha’s life and short versions of two of his famous parables. As I read aloud about Siddhartha’s life and teachings, my son fell asleep in my arms.

What beautiful reminders these all have been to live in the moment.

This isn’t to say I’ve not done some scheduling and planning (exhibit A: the detailed and unrealistic homeschooling schedules littering our dining room table). But just as in meditation when I bring my mind back to the present when I find it’s begun to wander, I’ve been gently bringing myself back from the plan-schedule-ruminate rut I usually fall into so easily. These things—the walks, the blog post, the picture book, the snuggling with my kids—have all helped bring me back.

I’d love it if I were back for good, if I no longer had to work to just be present. But I’m here now. And that’s about the best I can do.

And today I had an awesome (and enormous) salad with watercress, romaine lettuce, walnuts, pears, and dried currants. Awesome salads don’t hurt, either.

An Uncomfortable Silence

Today is the last day of Week 7 of my self-guided Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program (based on Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Full Catastrophe Living). This was the week when I didn’t use any of the recordings for my yoga or meditation. While I made it through the week, I found meditating in silence to be very challenging. My mind went 770 miles an hour without Jon Kabat-Zinn’s instructions to focus on. I guess that’s the point, but I definitely found it challenging to be all alone with my thoughts. They’re very noisy without something else to drown them out.

Up to now, I’ve used a combination of several different recordings. There’s a Jon Kabat-Zinn CD I got as part of the in-person MBSR class I did (in part) in Utah. I’m not sure where my instructor got it, although it might be from The Mindful Way Through Depression audiobook. On the recording I have is a 30-minute body scan track, and then three 10-minute sitting meditation tracks that each build on the next so you can choose a 10-, 20-, or 30-minute sitting meditation practice. I enjoy using all of these tracks. I also occasionally use the Sitting Meditation track from Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Guided Mindfulness Meditation Series 1 recordings. It’s 45 minutes long and includes much of the same guidance as the choose-your-duration recording I have.

For yoga, I use one of four recordings. My favorite is Shiva Rea’s Yoga Sanctuary. I use the Lunar Practice CD and do tracks 1, 2, 3, and 6 for a 40-ish minute practice. I sometimes add in track 4, too, which is inversions, but I’m not a huge fan of shoulder stand since I had kids, so I don’t do it that often.

I also use Lauren Peterson’s The Yogi’s Companion CD, although that’s a little more intense and takes a little more concentration to keep myself from striving to do more in my practice (rather than staying present with my breath and body).

The other two recordings I use for yoga are the 45-minute yoga practices in Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Guided Mindfulness Meditation Series 1. They are very gentle and really promote a connection with the body. The only reason I prefer the Shiva Rea Lunar Practice is that it opens up my muscles more. Regardless of which I use, I feel warm and rested after I practice yoga and ready to start my day.

This week, instead of using these recordings, I mostly used an awesome free online meditation timer to keep track of my time in sitting meditation or practicing yoga. I downloaded mp3’s for 10-, 20-, 30-, and 40-minute durations (with the Tibetan Bells option, a 40-second delay, chimes every 10 minutes, and three chimes to signal the end of the practice), and burned them to a CD so I could listen to them while practicing down in the basement.

Two mornings, I tried keeping track of time by listening to music I used to use while practicing yoga back in my early 20’s. Charles Sorgie’s Odysseys Into Alpha: Prana is very relaxing and worked well to keep me focussed on my breath for a 45-minute sitting meditation (incidentally, I once listened to this on my headphones while getting a root canal). The other morning, I did a shorter sitting meditation followed by a more energetic short yoga practice. For this, I programmed some tracks from Land of Forever by 2002 and used the song changes to tell me when to move from meditation to yoga.

I liked the music pretty well, but I found I preferred the silence. Such as it was. My son almost always wakes up about halfway through my practice. I hear my husband greet him.

“Hi, Buddy!” he says.

“NO!” our son replies.

He accepts no substitutes in the morning. When I come up from my practice, I find him sitting at the top of the stairs, waiting for me.

“Mommy!” he laughs and holds out his arms.

While I prefer to have a little more time to make some breakfast and maybe—if the stars are aligned—read for little while before being on Mommy duty, it’s difficult to maintain my disappointment with his sweet little arms around my neck and a wet little toddler kiss planted on my cheek. It’s a little more challenging when he starts in with the 2-year-old “NO!” to everything I say, but after a good mindfulness practice, I’m in the mode to live in the moment and appreciate the sweetness while it lasts.

For Week 8—the final week of the program—Kabat-Zinn sets us free to choose just how we want to practice. Sitting meditation, walking meditation, body scan, yoga, music, guided meditation cds…it’s our choice.

I’m a little nervous to have this much freedom.

Still Here: Week 6 Retrospective and Week 7 Preview

So, I made it through Week 6 of my meditation program.

(As a reminder, during Week 6, I alternated 45 minutes of yoga and 45 minutes of sitting meditation each morning this week. Well, I actually only did 30 minutes of sitting meditation on my meditation days. 45 just seemed so…long.)

The tricky part this week was that my husband was out of town and my mom was visiting and sleeping in my normal yoga-and-meditation space.

As a rule, I don’t handle upheavals in my routine very well.

I moved my morning practice upstairs and, by some miracle, kept my schedule for six of the seven days of Week 6. Each night I set the alarm for 5am, and each morning, with the help of the cats, I got up before the alarm,washed my face in cold water, bribed the cats with freeze-dried liver treats, and then retired to the office for yoga or meditation. That quiet time was quite pleasant and perhaps even necessary to maintaining some degree of calm during my not-at-all-routine days.

After my husband got home Thursday night, I found the routine harder to keep. Saturday I skipped yoga but did an abbreviated practice before bed. Sunday (day one of Week 7) I skipped entirely.

But today, I’m back in action with a morning yoga practice (and a blog post), although not without a fair amount of bellyaching.

For Week 7, I’m supposed to stop using the yoga and meditation recordings and just do 45 minutes per day of some combination of practice on my own. I’m thinking about doing 30 minutes of yoga in the morning and 15 minutes of sitting meditation in the evening because I like the feeling I get doing yoga in the wee hours of the morning and I like having a little moment of calm and reconnection to look forward to in the evenings. I missed that during Week 5 and Week 6 when all of my practice was in the morning.

I’ve got a few other blog posts floating around in my brain, but blogging just hasn’t been a priority since I started my meditation practice. I’m not sure why, but it feels less important than it once did. I also feel like I’m having a more difficult time expressing myself in writing than I have in the past. Maybe all of this “pondering the mysteries of the universe” is leaving me speechless.

Or maybe getting up before 5am most mornings is just catching up with me.

On Overcoming a Jinx

From Left to Right: Mary I & Philip II of Spai...

Between this family and my Jinx, my meditation schedule last week didn't stand a chance. (Image via Wikipedia)

My religious upbringing was eclectic and firmly based in Murphy’s Law, or perhaps more accurately, on The Jinx.

If we were driving to grandpa’s house, we were never allowed to say, “Wow! We’re making great time!” because that was essentially asking for a flat tire or a freak hail storm or giant griffins descending from the heavens to sharpen their claws on the roof of our station wagon.

By the same token, we’d never say, “I feel great!” or “Things are going so well right now!” or “We’re definitely on for knitting circle this week!” or “The baby seems to be settling into a routine.” (I’ve never had occasion to use that last one).

So, I should have known that my declaration last week that I loved meditating and that getting up at 4:30 had not only been easier than expected, it rocked, and I loved washing my face in cold water to wake myself up, and wasn’t life grand now that I’d found the secret to happiness? would be immediately followed by a period of meditative stagnation.

What does meditative stagnation look like? In the past five days, I’ve watched eleven hours of The Tudors and eaten three tubs of hummus (small tubs, but tubs nonetheless).

While the meditation program I’m following doesn’t specifically prohibit those actions, I find that doing those things consumes most of the time I might otherwise be meditating.

I didn’t drop the plan entirely, but it was faltering badly enough, I was worried I might not be able to pick it back up. But this weekend, I was able to sneak in both meditation and yoga. I’m not going to tempt fate and call it a comeback, but this morning I got up at 4:30 again and didn’t even go back to bed after yoga (not for lack of trying, though. I was apparently not sleepy enough to lose consciousness with my toddler snuggled next to me singing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” at full volume and pausing to sweetly tell me that he loves my hair (“I wuv your hair, Mommy. [pet, pet] What co-wor your hair, Mommy?”)).

So, that was Week 4.

On to Week 5!

For Weeks 5 and 6, I’m taking a break from the body scan and focusing instead on yoga and sitting meditation.

Each day, I will alternate 45-60 minutes of yoga with up to 45 minutes of sitting meditation. Today was yoga. Yesterday was sitting meditation, during which my right foot fell into a profound sleep and my body attempted to follow. The sudden awareness of gravity jerked me awake a number of times. The fear of braining myself on the brick fireplace behind me was apparently only enough to keep me awake for a few moments.

But even with my lapse last week, I am ready to recommit to the program. There are only nine episodes of The Tudors left, so that temptation will be gone soon, so I have that much going for me.

This time, however, I’ll be more cautious about how much I talk it up. No need to tempt fate.

Yogariffic (With Kids!)

I can’t decide if doing yoga with kids is better than not doing yoga at all.

The last couple of days have thrown me for a bit of a loop. I’m very surprised that I’ve not resorted to setting the kids in front of Dinosaur Train with a giant bowl of popcorn (for them) and opening a bottle of organic sulfite-free cabernet sauvignon (for me). We did bake cupcakes and made an unscheduled stop at Trader Joe’s for five tubs of hummus (and a few bottles of wine. And they didn’t card me, even though their sign clearly states they card everyone. I tried not to feel insulted).

Funny how the stressful times when a meditation practice might be particularly helpful are also the times when working meditation into my schedule is the most challenging.

I missed my evening sitting meditation last night and my AM yoga today. Determined not to lose my momentum entirely, I did a yoga CD (Lauren Peterson with music by Deva Premal…pretty nice) with the kids this afternoon.

Here’s a recap:

“Mommy, look! I can reach my foot!”

“Mommy, I really like the cat tilt and the dog tilt.”

“Mommy, why do you get to use the yoga strap?”

“Mommy, why are you turning up the volume?”

“Mommy, we’ve been doing this for a really long time.”

“Mommy, how much longer are we going to lie here?”

“Mommy, with this eye pillow, even with my eyes open it’s totally dark!”

“Mommy, I want something to put on my eyes.” (this last was my toddler while his sister and I were in Savasana. He then stole my glasses and ran across the room with them, banking on the fact that I wouldn’t be able/willing to leap up and stop him from my lying-on-the-floor-on-my-back position. Then he came back saying, “I put them on you, Mommy,” which caused me to open my eyes in time to see a blurry image of my son coming at my face with the pointy ends of my glasses.)

Include in this a toddler pushing my legs down in halasana and the cat walking between my feet and rubbing his face on my head in prasarita padottanasana (yes, I’m tossing around Sanskrit. Because I need to have something to show for the weeks I spent in yoga teacher training. And also because I’m cool).

But I did the whole (abbreviated) practice and even on a couple of occasions felt somewhat relaxed.

Opening a bottle of wine while cooking pancakes for dinner also helped.

Week 3: Still Sitting

I was going to say I was “still standing,” but since I’ve not tried walking meditation yet, most of my Bold Plan involves sitting or lying down. Or doing yoga, which I very gratefully added this week. I had no idea how much my body needed to stretch until I started doing it!

Here’s what I’ve done so far:

WEEK 1:

30-45 minute Body Scan meditation in the morning

WEEK 2:

30-45 minute Body Scan meditation in the morning

10 minutes of sitting meditation in the evening

WEEK 3:

Alternate 30-45 minute Body Scan meditation with 45 minutes of gentle yoga in the morning

20 minutes of sitting meditation in the evening

Be aware of and write down one pleasant experience from the day

Today is the last day of Week 3. Week 4 will be just like Week 3, except instead of writing down one pleasant experience from the day, I’ll be aware of and write down on unpleasant experience from the day.

All of this is based on Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Full Catastrophe Living, which is the book he wrote outlining the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program he pioneered at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. If you follow that link, you can find MBSR programs around the country. While I’m doing the program on my own now, I did start out in the live classes, and I think that’s probably the best way to be introduced to MBSR (although it’s probably more effective not to move across the country halfway through like I did).

In future posts, I’ll write in more detail what each of these steps entail (body scan, sitting meditation, yoga) as far as recordings and props go, in case you’re thinking of trying a meditation practice at home. Or maybe you just like details. Or maybe you’ll just choose to skip those posts. Whatever’s fine.

For now, this is what I’ve been up to.

As I mentioned yesterday, I really am enjoying myself. It doesn’t feel “Wow! This is amazing!” It just feels comfortable.

A surprisingly good mainstream article about mindfulness meditation and Jon Kabat-Zinn:

Posts by me about My Bold Plan: