Past, Present & Future

I was fortunate to be a part of the 100 year anniversary of the dedication of Rocky Mountain National Park on September 4, 2015.  The morning was beautiful with the early sun lighting up the mountain range.  The ceremony and rededication honored the wisdom of the past, the glory of the present and resolve for the future. It was a unique moment to mindfully tie past, present and future together and honor their connectedness.

Staying out of the past or the future is particularly challenging for me during meditation, a practice of observing and being in the present moment.  As is common, my busy thinking self often wanders deeply into history, usually my own, or fantasizes and catastrophizes what might lie ahead. This pattern is especially evident when I sit in meditation and observe my own self, thoughts included. Mindfulness meditation, simple though not easy, is the practice of non-judgementally observing yourself in the present moment.  While it is essential not to try to do anything during meditation, this is the practice of non-striving, one of the benefits of regular practice is that in your everyday life you come to appreciate and notice the present moment, the place where we truly live.

It can be distracting, poisoning or even immobilizing to dwell too much in the past or future, to regret or worry so much that you miss out or misjudge what’s happening now.  However, it can also be useful and even enjoyable to reflect and learn from the past as well as necessary and productive to plan for the future.  The trick for me, and indeed many others, is to perform these reflections mindfully and with a connection to the present.  

The Rocky Mountain celebration was a sublime experience of tying these three time frames together and creating a magical moment to enjoy right now.  The vision and efforts of the early conservationists preserved a priceless and timeless natural area. Visitors today can enjoy the beauty and serenity of the wilderness and connect deeply with nature.  All in attendance on the anniversary committed to securing this place and experience for many generations to come.  I was caught up in the moment, always a wonderful feeling, and at the same time struck by the past, present and future contained in the now.

With Gratitude for All Things,

Becca

Happy Birthday Rocky!!

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Being a Student

I was always a ‘good student’. In high school and college I always found it pretty easy to take notes and keeping up with assignments and studying came naturally to me. For my professional life, 16 years now, I have mostly been in the role of the teacher: educating my physical therapy patients on their ailments and their rehab process, teaching yoga for groups and private clients, instructing PTs and yoga teachers for their own professional development. The relatively few times I have attended a yoga conference or PT course I have been able to step back gratefully into the role of being a student. Unfortunately I haven’t made much time over the years to go routinely to yoga classes, to be taught on a regular basis.

In yoga we emphasize that the true teacher is within us, thus we can be students all the time learning from ourself. However, it takes practice to cultivate the mindset of a learner and even more practice to step outside of what we think we already know and gain new insights from any experience.  Indeed, I frequently see my clients challenged by the work of cultivating more awareness so they can learn from their own bodies. I crafted this sabbatical because I recognized my need to return to being a student and cultivate the ability to be both a teacher and a learner.

In this past week I have attended three very different yoga classes.  It was both a delight and a challenge to be in the back of the room facing inward rather than the front of the room facing outward.  In the first class, at a slick, trendy yoga/pilates/spa/boutique in Aspen, Co I found my body happy to be moving on my mat and my mind wandering up to the front.  The class was ‘Yoga Stretch’, a blend of vinyasa flow and yin (longer holds) and the instructor was even a PT like myself.  I kept thinking “I wouldn’t get into this pose this way”, or “He should give some modifications here”. I tried to take care of my own body’s need for modifications and non-judgementally observe my judgmental thoughts toward the teacher and his language and sequencing.  The second class was the Bikram hot yoga sequence at another, slightly simpler, studio in Aspen.  I have never been a devotee of Bikram classes but I am familiar enough with the sequence that the class felt like a relaxed visit with an old friend.  Maybe because of the familiar, standard dialog my thoughts stayed more with the sensations of my body and breath rather than with the teacher.

While in Denver I sought out a dedicated Iyengar studio in order to experience a style of yoga of which I’ve only had small direct tastes.  The huge and phenomenally equipped studio and level 1 class did indeed provide an excellent opportunity to feel like an eager student, open and curious about new ways of using props and entering poses.  There were moments of questioning there also, since Iyengar tends to be a bit of a tough love style, contrasting with my tendency toward gentle persuasion.

I intend to continue to gain exposure to other yoga teachers and styles during my time as dedicated student, in order to enhance both my understanding of how yoga is frequently being taught (the good, the bad, the variety) and to improve my own teaching ability. It will be a challenge to do that and temper the tricky emotions of judgement and criticism. All the more reasons to keep practicing the mindful meditation elements of awareness and observation; observe and absorb and give the processing (judging) time and space.

And as for the practice of being a student of my own inner teacher, the erratic travel schedule isn’t making it easy to find the consistent daily yoga and meditation practice that I intend to cultivate. But I am showing up to class everyday, bringing mindfulness to the beauty of nature, the company of friends and the slower pace of camping and a freer schedule. It feels good to be a student again and I’ll  keep working closely with the teacher within, the source that guides us all and opening myself to learning from every experience.

With Gratitude for all things,

Becca

meditation at GSDNP

Getting Started

Getting started on a new routine, a new project, a new practice can be tricky.  Just the decision to make that change is a challenge, but stepping into that new and unfamiliar space has been daunting and even a bit elusive for me.  A little over a week ago I wrapped up my professional responsibilities, taught my last yoga class, saw my last private client and finished up business related emails, as I enter a six month sabbatical to pursue…well that list is long, maybe more than I’ll be able to accomplish.  There was certainly a sense a relief that for the time being I only have to answer to myself and my family, yet I have found myself unsure what to do next.  I have found plenty of distractions, some necessary as I prepared myself and family for two months of travel, but am ever conscious that the list of books, practices and study I intend to pursue lies ahead and I don’t feel quite able to step into them fully.

So I have discovered a simple two step process to help me deal with the anxiety that surfaces when my mind starts saying “you only have six months, you better get started.”  Step 1: Take a Deep Breath. Step 2: Repeat Step 1 until another step becomes clear.

Getting this blog started has been one of the challenges.  There seems precious little time to pick out themes and avatars, much less connecting to wi-fi when I still have connections left in my brain.  And then what to even write in my first blog, no pressure.  So after some deep breaths (Steps 1-99) I realized that my personal journal entry for out first night on the road would be as good a place to start as any.

August, 21, 2015

Unfortunately this first entry on our long trip will have to be short since I am exhausted.  It has been days, weeks, months, years really if you count when I first sowed this seed in my dreams, of planning, preparing and packing.  We were on the road about 8 hours (not the six I projected) before we arrived at Greer’s Ferry Lake, AR.  The campground is huge but the sites are fairly private and we are on a rocky bluff looking through trees over the lake, quite lovely really.  Setting up camp the first time was a bit of a circus, shuffling stuff around and around in the camper, squeezing past each other in the narrow spaces, trying to find things, then find places to put the things.  We were all getting pretty irritated and frustrated when I realized it was nearly 8pm and we hadn’t had dinner.  So I scrambled to to get water, find pots and make a delicious dinner of Velveeta Mac ‘n Cheese and chili from a can.  (I’m sure we’ll start eating healthy when we get to Colorado, HA!)  I admit I had a few moments of ‘why the heck are we doing this – and for 2 months? This feels harder than life at home.’  But then I remembered that I am tired and worn thin from the past week of getting ready and the past several years of building my yoga therapy practice, and it is the first night – setting up camp will surely get easier.  And in fact as we all settle down into comfy beds to read or journal and geese are honking out over the lake I can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be.

Whew, I’m started.  I’ll have to continue with deep breaths as I move forward with my sabbatical, especially when I find myself unsure what direction to go or unable to take that step.

Much Gratitude to all of you for your support and encouragement.  I don’t think even the deep breaths would have gotten me this far without it.

Peace and Love

Becca

Greer's Ferry Lake, AR
Greer’s Ferry Lake, AR