Monday, February 14, 2011

I am a chunk of coal

Maybe it's having the time off, or maybe it's a new awareness, but I'm noticing more these days.  Quotes.  Articles that resonate.  Thoughts I've had but hadn't paid attention to.  Another sort of weird thing that I'm noticing?  Smiling.  I consider myself a happy person already, but this random smiling is weird.  I was driving to this yoga retreat in the Berkshires yesterday and found myself actually smiling (I was also only driving 65 the whole way, which is even weirder).  I'm sure the cars passing by thought I was high, but whatever.  It's all good.

Yes.  I am at a yoga retreat.  It's called Kripalu, and was recommended to me by my therapist.  I've only been here for about half a day, but so far it's super-cool.  The most common question I got when I said I was doing this was what a day actually entails at a yoga retreat.  Thankfully, Kripalu has posted it on their website, so I won't repeat the generalities here.  I arrived about 3:00, checked into my (shared) room, did a one-hour gentle yoga class, had a healthy dinner, attended an orientation, and did a 80-minute meditation workshop.

Ahh, yes.  The meditation workshop.  First, this woman was crazy-cool.  She knew her stuff, but in a really pragmatic, direct, and humorous way.  I loved her for that.  If you're interested in trying out meditation, you can get a recording of the workshop I took or peruse her website for more info.  I've tried guided meditation before, but pretty much always laying down in bed, near bedtime.  Which has one consistent result.  Falling asleep.  Which, apparently, is not the point of meditation.  So, I was excited and encouraged about the workshop.  She did a good intro before we delved in.  She warned us that meditation can be frustrating, and that "doing it right" is defined as just doing it; however it goes.  Ok, cool.  Got it.  I'm encouraged.  I'm feeling mindful and relaxed.  Ready?  Go. 

3 minutes in my left foot is asleep and my right hip is throbbing.  When thoughts enter my mind, I'm supposed to notice them, but not invite them in.  So, I notice that my hip is throbbing and return to focusing on my breath.  Then all I hear are the idiots outside the door chatting it up.  Don't they know there's a freaking meditation workshop going on?  Okay, idiots noted.  Return to focus on my breath.  But, seriously, did the woman next to me not eat anything for dinner?  Her stomach sounds like it wants to eat me.  Noted.  Return to breath.  Are we done yet?  How much longer?  Wait.  Nagging thoughts noted.  Return to breath.  Finally, it's over.  We're debriefing the experience after and I raise my hand.  "How long did we do it for?".  18 minutes was her reply.  Actually, way longer than I thought.  So, perhaps I'm not a totally lost cause.  I resolve to try out the meditation room a couple times this week.

In between classes/workshops/stuff, I checked out the magazine here.  I opened it to an article called "Experiments in Love".  Seriously?  The only way the universe could be clearer that this needs to be an area of focus in my life is if it sent the perfect man to my doorstep.  Which, by the way universe, that would have been clearer.  Can you hook that up?  A sidebar in the article by Kate and Joel Feldman talked about the fact that maintaining healthy relationships requires practice.  They used the acronym of PRESENCE.  I thought it was a great outline of things I want to remember as I spend my time off.
  • PRESENT: I can tune into my body, mind, emotions, and spirit.  I allow myself to be in contact with myself and others
  • RESPONSIVE: I am able to respond emotionally.  I allow you to impact me, and I let you know how I feel by responding to you.
  • ENGAGED: I am interested.  I am willing to be part of your world.
  • SELF-AWARE: I notice the feelings and sensations in my body; I can track my own thought processes.  I know my strengths and challenges and am able to communicate skillfully.
  • EMPATHETIC: I express my interest, curiosity, and care for what you are doing through.  I make amends if I have hurt you.
  • NATURAL: I am relaxed with myself, authentic, and able to express myself without fear or defensiveness.
  • CONNECTED: I allow myself to care for, and be cared for by, others.  I have good internal boundaries while staying openhearted.
  • ENERGIZED: I experience myself as alive, caring, and intentional with the important relationships in my life.
So, I resolve to keep at this introspection thing.  And do meditation even when my feet fall asleep and I want to kick the woman next to me for fidgeting.  Malcolm Forbes once said "Diamonds are nothing more than chunks of coal that stuck to their jobs" (for you slow-starters, I am the chunk of coal in this metaphor).  So, I will stick to it.  What should you do a better job of sticking to? (yes, now you're the chunk of coal.  seriously, you need to pay more attention).

Hasta, sabbaticaljo


  1. Ha! I can hear you saying these words. Your humor is addicting. Speaking from personal experience, I can say sticking with the yoga and meditation will make the experience the diamond that you desire it to be. It's a long process (think months) but it is so beneficial.

  2. Thanks, Anonymous! I've really loved doing yoga over the past few years, but I always let it slip when things get busy. I need to remember that both yoga and meditation can be done on my own terms in my PJs. Even if it's just a sun salutation or two.