Moving Through Resistance

Moving Through Resistance | Whisper & HowlThese past few weeks I’ve been working on creating new, positive habits–specifically, establishing a morning routine.  I’ve mentioned that I want to become a morning person, and I’ve decided that I should be well on my way by my birthday, August 31st.  As of today that gives me 6 weeks to 1) break old habits and 2) establish a new pattern.

I wish this were easier.  It seems so simple and direct:

  • Determine a goal.
  • Figure out the steps required to achieve said goal.
  • Set an intention, move forward with purpose, think positively, yadda yadda.
  • Do it.  Goal accomplished.

That’s nothing, right?  Hah.

Of course, in this case I’m not just adding sweet morning habits to a morning devoid of habits.  I have to make time for them as well.  I have to wake up earlier in order to add these sweet, energizing activities.  I have to wake up and decide to stay awake.  This is the hard part.  This is where breaking the old habit comes in.  This is where the demon known as Resistance rears his sleepy, lackadaisical head, blinks his eyes, and goes back to sleep.  My mornings, therefore, are an epic struggle with this lazy monster who has reigned inside my head for far too long.

Resistance shows up often, manifesting as procrastination, frustration, depression, “I don’t waaaaannnaaaaa,” giving into the snooze alarm.  I remember it well from my childhood.  Although I didn’t know what to call it, I remember feeling a tightening in my chest, an almost physical inability to perform tasks I’d been asked to do such as putting dishes away or cleaning my room.  I felt it in a different way when it came time to practice piano, and I feel it now when I think about picking up my ukulele to learn new chords.  I didn’t know how to deal with this feeling when I was younger and I recall hot, unexplained tears, tantrums and time outs.  Fortunately, there are ways to cope that don’t result in hurling one’s self on the ground and screaming.

What To Do When Resistance Shows Up

1) Acknowledge It.  

When you notice the discomfort of resistance arising, recognize it for what it is.  Name it.  Acknowledge it.  Invite it in for tea. Naming the discomfort and acknowledging it loosens the knots it creates.  (This works for all kinds of discomfort.)

2) Contemplate It. 

Consider where the resistance comes from.  For example, if it’s time for me to practice my instrument and I am overcome with a physical sensation of stiffness in my chest, almost a feeling of anger or even just a dismissive thought that I’ll do it later, I can sit quietly for a moment, check in with myself and ask, “Why don’t I want to practice my instrument?  Am I frustrated by a particular piece or technique?  Am I afraid I will never learn it?  Am I falling short of my own perfectionism?  What happens if I allow myself to sit with the discomfort that arises when I practice, or simply the feeling of resistance?”

3) Move Through It, Gently. 

More often than not, when I sit with the discomfort, I realize its source and I can acknowledge that and move on.  Then the task at hand can be performed joyfully or at the very least, performed.

Through these practices, we can accomplish the goals we’ve been putting off.  In my case, I can wake up and stay awake, arise and begin establishing my positive morning habits.  I may need to program my alarm clock an extra 5 minutes early just to move through the resistance. Perhaps this, too, is part of my routine: step one, the first habit. Maybe this is a lesson in itself, to begin at the beginning.

How does Resistance show up for you?  Do you have any practices for moving through it?

 

Weekend Wanderer

Weekend Wanderer | Whisper & Howl

I start every week with good intentions. I get up on Monday, teach my yoga class, drink a smoothie and head to work. If it’s not too hot, I walk. I wake up Tuesday through Friday to do 5 minutes of pranayama (breath work) and 5 minutes of meditation–a new practice to help me establish the habits that will make up my morning routine--and start the day off with focus and clarity. After work, I walk home to cook a healthy dinner and enjoy the evening by painting, reading, sewing, attending a class, spending time with friends, or vegging in front of the TV (too often, honestly). Around 9 I go upstairs and do 7 minutes of asana, which usually lasts much longer than 7 minutes, perform my evening skin care routine and go to bed, where I do my castor oil pack and read for 45 minutes before I sleep.

I mean, this is ideal. Sometimes I fall off the wagon and eat junk for dinner, plopping down on the couch to pass the evening with Netflix. I think that’s okay. Some nights my asana is just a very long savasana, and some nights I read Tarot cards or meditate and suddenly realize I am staying up way too late. Most mornings, I used to pound the snooze alarm for a long time, although I’m on a mission to change this and have so far been doing pretty well with establishing my morning routine…

Except on weekends. On the weekend, everything slips away and I find myself wandering far away from my path of good intentions. Sometimes it’s because I’m having a wonderful time out with friends and am up way past my bedtime having excellent conversations and drinking too much wine. Other times, I am worn out from the week before or am nursing a cold and choose to sleep late and laze around–and this is totally fine! I’m not rigid. If I were, I wouldn’t be striving so hard to establish some healthy habits. These occasions are totally “allowable,” not wandering so much as being fluid and attuned to the body.

What does bother me, however, is when I stay up until 2 am binge-watching TV. I do this thing where I stay up super late and fall asleep on the couch when my roommate is away. For some reason it feels really indulgent. It also makes me feel like shit. I end up sleeping until 11 or later the next day. I drop my morning routine. My face goes unwashed. I feel like I’ve wasted half the day and I get stressed out thinking of all the things I wanted to do, and how I must now choose. On Sunday evening I have to reset, and on Monday waking up early is more difficult than it should be.

It’s not that I want to impose a structure on my weekends that would make me, you know, super boring. It’s that I want to do more: have more fun, accomplish a mini-goal, be more active, enjoy myself more. When I stay up late and sleep in nearly ’til noon, I can’t do these things. I miss the Farmers Market. It’s too hot to go hiking. I still have chores to do and that interferes with my social time, or I am social and my house remains a mess for the upcoming week. I break out because I’ve neglected my skincare. The list goes on.

What I’d like to do is to maintain a bit of my weekday routine, but to stretch it and be more flexible with it. I used to think I wanted the opportunity to sleep late but now I want the opportunity to enjoy the whole day! As I’m establishing my weekday habits, I need to be mindful of what I want for my time off. How can I live to the max Friday-Sunday? How can I make the most of the time I have? What can I do to become a warrior instead of a wanderer?

What is your ideal weekend like? How do you spend your time currently, and how would you like to change?

All gunked up

Whisper & Howl

I realized something important about my body last week.

It’s whack.  Wacky.  Out of whack.  Whacked?

The alignment is all off.  There’s no balance.  Not that it has been balanced in years anyway.  I’ve been dealing with poor health for years: low energy, congestion, GI issues, back pain, occasional fatigue…just feeling kind of crappy all of the time.  I’m so, so tired of it.

I remember 2 years ago, my Birthday Resolution was “Health.”  I knew that was pretty broad so I tried to break it up into segments like Spiritual, Mental, Physical, because that makes it so much easier (hahahahaaaahhhhhhhsigh).  After the year was up I certainly didn’t feel that I’d accomplished that goal.  I was in grad school, dealing with a lot of anxiety, stress and loneliness.  I was fatigued and bloated all of the time, and I’d totally let my asana practice go.  But you know, I got by.  I got through that.   I also realized that year that gluten was causing a lot of my fatigue issues, so I cut that out.

Actually, looking back, I did totally start something that year.  I set the intention to improve my health and while I didn’t find the cure and solve all my problems, I started on the path to feeling awesome.  I guess that’s what intentions do.  Ah hah!

Since then, I have put a lot of energy into healing my digestive system.  Again, as a sign of my natural impatience, I was focusing on immediate results and not thinking about the long-term effects that this would have.  Focusing on the immediate made it easier to slip up and eat things that cause a reaction.  For instance, it’s really hard to not eat cheese.

Cheese is like, the best thing.  It’s delicious, fatty and salty and interesting, and it’s packed full of chemicals that make us feel amazing.  When I’m in situations where I’m literally touching it, like cutting pizza for kids or slicing a chunk of Jarslberg for a gallery opening, it is almost impossible for me not to put it in my mouth.  Lots of it.  Even though it upsets my tummy.  Even though I’ll wake up with a sinus headache that could definitely turn into a sinus infection.  Even though I am basically one big snot monster.  It’s just SO GOOD.

What I didn’t realize before is that I have done a pretty good job of healing my gut, and that has allowed me to see other problems that still exist.   I have connected some dots and now know that I’ve got a lot of inflammation in my body, which is causing congestion and back pain.  Now that my gut is better and that’s not the focus of all of my healing energy, I can move on to a new phase of healing.

My impression is that I need to cleanse now, to get the leftover junk, the junk that’s built up in my body for all the years when I was eating the wrong foods or whatever caused all these things, to flush all that shit out.  We’re in Cancer Sun time, a time for healing, and Capricorn Moon time, a time for setting routines and putting systems into place. Perfect timing, right?!It’s like Phase 2!  (Or really, like Phase One Zillion.) I have to maintain my diet.  I have to FIGHT THE CHEESE (or as my acupuncturist said, “Don’t feed the monster”).  I can’t put gunk in my body if I want to get gunk OUT of it!

You won’t see my on a juice cleanse–first because I think it’s super unhealthy and second, because I think it’s stupid and I don’t want to, harumph–or any other fad detox diets.  Here are some things I am going to do, and I’m putting them here on the internet to officially set my intention and challenge myself to commit:

  1. SMOOTHIE CHALLENGE!!!  I’ve been really bad about having a daily smoothie and I feel better when I do have them.  They increase my fruit and veggie intake and are easy to digest, good for an irritated gut.  I have already started and will continue to have 1 Smoothie each day in July and hopefully will keep doing it in future months.
  2. Acupuncture and treatments: I started acupuncture on Tuesday and have made appointments for the next month, every other week.  I’m also doing what my specialist tells me to do, which at the moment is Castor Oil Packs over my liver each evening and Wet Sock Treatment for 3 nights in a row.  Yes, it’s weird, and yes, I love it.
  3. Sticking to my diet: Absolutely, 100%, no excuses, doing this.  I WILL DO THIS!!!  THIS IS HAPPENING!
  4. Immune-boosting, dosha-balancing, cleansing foods and herbs: Turmeric and ginger in my smoothies.  Hot water and lemon. Apple cider vinegar.  Triphala and Neem.  Bitter, pungent, fresh, spicy foods.  Immune-boosting soup.  Fresh fruits and veggies.  You get the idea.

And the MOST IMPORTANT THING:

Have PATIENCE.  Oh this is so hard for me!  Once I have identified a problem, I feel like I should be able to fix it immediately and when I don’t see results right away, I get frustrated.  I have to let go of my Virgoan perfectionism, breathe deeply, drink my smoothie and remember that good things take time.  Monsters can be tamed.  Small steps.

If you are dealing with something similar, or have gone through this and come out the other side, monster-free, I’ll take any tips you’ve got!

I’m into minimalism.

words

 

Not that I’m a minimalist right now, but it’s something I’m slowly working toward.  See, it all started when I moved to Bloomington, IN a few years ago for grad school.  I brought EVERYTHING.  I filled a decent-sized Budget moving truck with all of my furniture (couch, loveseat, chair, ottoman, dining set, mattress, dresser, entertainment shelf thing, bookshelf, vanity…probably things I’m forgetting), art, clothes, books, records…EVERYTHING.  I packed my Camry full of stuff.  I had a whole, furnished house worth of STUFF.

I did this because neither of my new housemates had any furniture and I thought it would be easier and cheaper to carry the trappings of my 28 years of life across several state lines, and it was fine.  We had a nicely furnished, comfortable home with lots of kitchen equipment and gardening tools and knick knacks.  And all through that year, I bought more stuff.  I bought clothes for a new lifestyle.  I bought shoes.  I filled the house with more and more things.

And then disaster struck.  Relative disaster.  We had to move.  I found a small 1-bedroom apartment that a lot of my furniture wouldn’t fit it.  I had a storage unit for the summer, but it was double-booked so I was left with a truck full of my stuff, a limited time to move it all, and 1 friend who could help.  I was screwed.  I called my friend Alexa, who was in Germany, to beg her to let me use her tiny basement storage area for my things.  I grabbed her hidden extra key and I crammed as much stuff as I could into her basement room, shoved my mattress behind her wardrobe, loaned her my coffee table and patio furniture for the summer…but I had to donate the rest of my furniture to the ReStore.  I gave my couches to another friend (they came to me for free so I felt this was probably a good karmic decision) and said goodbye to everything except what I could fit at Alexa’s, and drove my packed Camry to Richmond, VA for a summer internship.

Flash forward to August, when I went to retrieve my things from the basement and discovered a bunch of mildewed clothes and moldy leather accessories.  Everything stunk.  I spent weeks trying to clean Frye boots and my great-grandmother’s scarves, hanging them outside my small apartment to dry in the sun.  I had been forced to downgrade, but I still had SO MUCH STUFF.

My Mom and sister drove Mom’s hatchback to Bloomington for my graduation and to help me move back to North Carolina.  I hadn’t done much packing (I’d been too busy with exams and grading undergraduate papers to do anything else) and I was sure we could get it all done in one night, but I was oh so wrong.  They stayed an extra day to help me go through all of my stuff, which I now think of as my crap.  I loaded a friend’s truck up for 2 separate Goodwill trips.  I sold books and furniture on Facebook and gave away the rest.  At the last minute, I ditched an entire laundry basket worth of shoes (there was another basket), making snap decisions.  It felt good.

My neighbor, an older man, walked by and looked at my car in amazement.  He went to college, he said, with a single suitcase.  I felt ashamed then, looking at all my stuff.

We loaded my Mom’s and my car with everything that would possibly fit, leaving a little space for my sweet cat, Devo, to ride atop a pile of stuff in my car (she likes to sit up high and look out the windows on car rides).  I loaded everything in my parents’ basement for the next 9 months while I lived at home, finished up some school projects and hunted for a job.  I didn’t touch most of my stuff.

In September last year I moved into an apartment with a friend.  I brought all the stuff from the basement plus my clothes and some of my sister’s kitchen things.  I realized over the next couple of months that even though I had so many items of clothing, I had very little that I actually wanted to wear.  Many things no longer fit my lifestyle; others were in less-than-perfect condition, hadn’t been worn in over a year, or didn’t fit quite right.  I decided that I deserved to feel awesome in my clothes and to only have things that make me feel great.  I deserve to have clean, well-fitting clothes with no holes, clothes that make me feel great and look great.  I decided to throw out everything that didn’t fit that model, to make space for things that did.  I stood at the top of the stairs and threw clothes down, releasing them from my life.  It felt AMAZING.  I ended up with several garbage bags of clothes that I was able to donate to Goodwill so that someone else could enjoy them.

Since then I’ve been on a mission to reduce clutter in my life and to make space for joy.  A lot of this has to do with my wardrobe.  I have always loved fashion and consider my clothes a source of creative expression.  What I wear matters to me, and I love that I can shape the way I’m perceived through my wardrobe.  I like things that make me feel comfortable and confident.  My style has changed a lot since I moved to Bloomington and back.  My job and the weather require different types of clothing.  My body has changed a little and my ideas about who I am and what I like have changed a lot.  I’m still developing my style, and I’m still discarding old things and shopping much, much less.  I recently went full konmari on my wardrobe and donated 4 more bags of clothing and shoes, and I’m ready to go through books and papers the next time I get a free day.  I am attempting a second capsule wardrobe (more on that later).  Becoming more minimalist and intentional with my wardrobe, figuring out my personal style, and exploring a capsule wardrobe are key factors in my personal life this year.  I’m going to be sharing more about this as I go along.  I don’t know that I’ll ever be a fashion blogger, but we’ll see how it goes.

In the meantime, if you’re interested in capsule wardrobes, check out this (now defunct) blog by photographer and writer Caroline Joy Rector.  I really responded to her style when I was searching for information on a capsule wardrobe, and I found her wardrobe planning document really useful.  If you’re considering a capsule, I highly recommend checking her out.

Peace,

Jillian

This is Devo.

Devo the minimalist cat

On Faith and the Blahs

Ask and you shall receive.

Jump, and the net will appear.

But how does one know what to ask for?  How do we know which way to jump?

Jump Off Cliff by Flickr user Steven | Alan

Photo by Flickr user Steven | Alan

Lately I feel like I’m being drawn down a really positive, dynamic path, moving in the direction of my dreams, but also it’s SLOW.  There are roadblocks.  There is unhappiness.  I am not a patient person.

This makes me moody.  I’m often grouchy during the day, when my energy is expended on activities that don’t fulfill me, in a space that drains me.  I want to focus on positive messaging: mantras, “thinking the opposite,” finding something nice to say about everyone.  I try to stay busy so I don’t fall into a hole of discontent.  This week I find myself with little work to do, feeling tired and grumpy, hot and unhappy.  I’m bummed.  I have major unexpected expenses but no increase in income. I have groceries but no time to cook.  I have homework but no time to read.  I have rituals of self-care but no energy to perform them.

I want answers.  I want to know with absolute certainty that another  opportunity is on its way, that the money to fix my car will fall into my lap, that my insurance will cancel my waiting period so I can get medically necessary dental care!  I want to know that through my pursuit of yoga, my creative explorations, the numberless incredible and uplifting conversations I have with friends and fellow yogis, that by actively pursuing a fulfilling and spiritual life my day-to-day will improve.  Sometimes I know what to do.  This week, I do not.

Yesterday when I started this post, I was feeling really distressed by the way my mood has changed regarding the situation I’m in.  The week before last I was strongly moved by a righteous anger, the slap-in-the-face realization that something must change IMMEDIATELY.  I got through that with positivity, a sense of gratefulness and hope and faith that as I create space for change, it has to happen.  Last week, I carried that feeling over to a sense of general well-being, taking good care of myself, with enough work to do that I could stay busy.

But this week, I am BUMMED.  I can’t get in touch with my guides.  I have a major case of the blahs and possibly a head-cold or a touch of the chronic respiratory symptoms I’ve developed since starting this job.  I’ve had very low energy.  I can’t seem to focus on anything, including affirmations, guidance, mantra.  I don’t know what to do.  All I can think is, I don’t know what to do.  And yet…

As I write this I am thinking about faith.  Can faith be enough?  Can the belief that all I have to do is keep walking and the road will rise up to meet me, be enough?  Even when I don’t know exactly where I’m headed?  Is it enough to have faith that I’m choosing the right path, or that the right path has chosen me, or that I’m being led down the best path regardless of whether I falter?  I hope so.

I wanted this post to be about requesting clarification when seeking guidance.  I have so many things to talk about that it’s difficult to choose a topic.  I’m new here.  I’ve decided it’s best to just sit down and write, and let the words shape themselves into a post.  I trust that they will find a path and flow from beginning to end on the best possible course to completion.

Can I believe that of myself?  Can that be enough?

the blahs

the blahs

Private Hikes

I’ve been thinking a lot about energy balance lately.  It’s definitely the focus of my life right now, and I’m making it my Birthday Resolution for 2015.  The thing that has really brought this up for me is being in a situation I find really draining, but that I can’t leave right now.  I started searching for ways to feel better when I’m not in the thick of it, which happens to make me feel better when I am.

I have been walking to and from work, which gives me time to let my body get used to the idea of being there, and to unwind a bit on the way home, so that when I get here I can make choices that will make me feel good.  I have been selecting my Most Important Things, which helps me to focus on what is, well, the most important thing each day. I try to choose 3 and they may include chores, always include my sadhana, and something else that is pleasant.  I have to recharge with positive, affirming, joyful activities.  Sometimes that does mean I lie in bed and watch Supernatural!  Sometimes it means going on a konmari binge and getting rid of things that no longer serve me, keeping only things that spark joy.  Sometimes it means snuggling Devo, or going swimming, writing a letter, or painting!  Last weekend, I took myself on a solo hike to the top of a (small) mountain, where I sat and meditated/soaked up the sun, listened to nature, enjoyed the breeze and tuned in to my inner voice.   I got some Vitamin D and some insights into life and happiness…but that’s a tale for another time.

I suppose this is what is meant by self-care.  I have spent a lot of time trying to determine what that means to me, and this is helping me to get there.  Instead of focusing on the negative or draining things in my life, I concentrate on the things that bring me joy and make me feel energized.  For the past week, I’ve been doing these things in the evening or even throughout the day, but I would like to have more time in the morning to start my day off with an important thing, or even setting the things for the the day.  Right now, I set those things the night before, or when I get to work, or as I’m brushing my teeth, but I’d like to be more intentional about it.  Other than my sadhana (my practice, which involves at least 7 minutes of vinyasa yoga, 7 minutes of study and 7 minutes of another practice, which for me generally means meditation or doing a Tarot reading), my most important things are choices.  In the midst of a truly exhausting and unhappy situation that takes up half my waking hours, I am choosing toward love, light and life.  I am choosing to stay as positive as possible.  That requires a lot of energy, but this kind of energy is regenerative.  If like breeds like, I want my efforts at joy and harmony to create joy and harmony.

In the meantime, I definitely need more nature walks in my life.

Do you have any daily practices that help you recharge?

 

I am not a morning person…yet.

This is not my life.

This is not my life…but it could be.

I just bought an expensive, fancy-pants natural light alarm clock.  It was kind of an impulse purchase and I’m on a tight budget, but I have no regrets.

You see, I am not a morning person…but I want to be.  Oh, do I want to be.  The thought of getting up as the sun rises, enjoying a steamy cup of coffee, which I lovingly made with fresh-ground beans and steeped to perfection in my French press; sitting on the front porch listening to the world waking up; letting Devo out to play as I write my Morning Pages; returning to my room, which I have plenty of time to keep clean, to practice yoga and meditation before I shower, leisurely put on my face and dry my hair, make my smoothie with care and do the dishes so I can return home to a neat and clean space….This is the stuff of my dreams.

The problem is, I have spent my whole life avoiding mornings.  I snooze for hours.  I take a shower and go back to bed for a “quick nap.”  I set my alarm as late as is feasible for getting to work on time, and I am rarely on time.  Whenever I get the chance to sleep late, I will stay in bed all morning.  For most of my life, the idea of getting up before 8 has made me cringe.  And yet…

I’ve changed.

Last year, my big Birthday Resolution was to become fiscally responsible, something that I’m still working on (and will be working on forever).  This year, I am focusing on balance.  In the past this has meant time-management, balancing work and play, how to get everything done and still stay sane.  However, I’m realizing that time-management is hardly possible in this day and age.  We are constantly plugged in, absorbing information, processing and working every minute of every day.  What has become important isn’t time, it’s energy. How do I balance my energy?  How do I choose where my focus goes, ignoring things that are not important, and maintaining mental and physical health?  How do I get through a day of work at an emotionally draining job and still have the energy, at the end of the day, to be a well-balanced, social person with interests and responsibilities (and part-time jobs) outside of my 9-5?

I believe becoming a morning person is a crucial step.  Having those extra hours in the morning to exist in my own personal space, to greet the day with joy and to set my intentions (and priorities) will add some calm and beauty to my life and increase my energy.  Snoozing, oversleeping and sleeping poorly are energy-suckers and can be bad for overall health.

I started this quest in December as I began The Artist’s Way, which demands that you spend 30 minutes each morning writing 3 pages.  I did this for the required 90 days and then I slid back into my old habits (for several reasons including health issues and my job, but that’s a story for another time).  Then I began researching tactics for arising early, sleeping better, and morning routines.  I invested in an ingenious sleep app that, sadly, has lots of glitches so I won’t recommend it here.  It helped me calculate the amount of time I needed to sleep and to adjust my bedtime accordingly, which was useful.  I got up early for about 2 weeks, and then started bringing my phone/alarm into bed with me…bad idea.  And so I have resolved to buy an alarm clock, a fancy-pants alarm that will wake me gradually so I can become the morning person I am meant to be!

I’ll be posting a lot on energy balance, my person quests and resolutions, and the practices I encounter and learn along the way–and I’ll let you know how this alarm works out.  If you have any advice, tips or tactics that work for you, please feel free to share!

Follow-up: This alarm clock is dope. It has definitely made waking up less of a jarring and traumatic experience and more of a natural, pleasant part of life. The sunset feature is also very relaxing and helps me as a “go to bed” timer. 

Hello world!

I wanted to outsource my bio so I asked some friends to describe me in 5 words or less, and this is what they said:

totally cool and rad yay

shining; brilliant; nurturing; awesome; catz

Girl’s gonna roast some turkeys.

Very smart, pretty blinky eyes

Funny, authentic, good hugger!

Lady likes to letter n draw

You’re one damn cool cat.

My friends are pretty great.