Mantra Monday: “I Practice Non-Attachment.”

Aparigraha or Non-Possessiveness is the fifth and final yama. When studying this yama, I learned another way to view non-possessiveness is through the lense of non-attachment.

Attachment is still something I struggle to understand and it is talked about considerably when discussing all branches of the yoga tree and through The Yoga Sutras of Pantanjali.
Pantanjali defines attachment as “the consciousness of self-mastery in one who is free from craving from objects seen or heard.”
Awesome. Did that make sense to you? It did not to me the first, second and third time I read it. We discussed this concept at length throughout my yoga teacher training and attachment always seemed to be at the core of any sense of suffering; physical, emotional, spiritual, mental, etc.
For awhile, I struggled with the thought process that maybe I was not supposed to care about anything? If caring about something or someone led me to be attached to them and the fear of losing them led to attachment, well, should I just not care?
Not caring can be a freeing concept in some respects. Not caring so much has helped me deal with some forms of my anxiety where maybe I am not caring so much about my appearance, about how fast I can run, about how far I can push myself in a yoga pose.

But, there are some things, or mainly, people, I have a hard time not caring about.
My biggest attachment and thoughts that cause suffering relate to the fear of losing people. My core group of loves ones (husband, step-son, family members and friends) are treasured and dear to me and the thought of anything “bad” happening to them or an untimely death causes me to have anxious thoughts.
I was confronted with this construct pretty head on when my dad was murdered four years ago. My biggest fear and source of anxiety up to that point was losing someone I loved and then crash, bang, boom, I did.
Does non-attachment tell me to not care about what happened to my dad or my healing process? The way I am understanding attachment is that it does not mean a lack of care, but a lack of investment to an expected outcome. I am trying to be at peace with whatever outcomes may come in regards to the things and people I care about.
Non-attachment to outcomes has helped me not suffer as much through the legal process surrounding the arrests made in my dad’s case. The legal process is still dragging on and I work to be at peace with whatever may be and not let the results affect my own personal healing journey.
I believe attachment is the main source of the anxiety I experienced for so many years. Although it still creeps in from time to time, having an awareness of what is going on has helped tremendously in dealing with the racing thoughts.
There was an incident a few months back with my step-son’s school bus. He was almost at school when a stolen truck crashed into the bus. The driver of the truck got out to run and the cops begin shooting at him. Right.next.to.the.bus. Everyone was OK. The driver was arrested. The kids made it to school safely. My step-son was fine.
The next day as I drove to work and thought about him on that bus, I constructed a whole alternative, catastrophized scenario in my head. I decided to never let him out of the house again and cover him in bubble wrap when we needed to go outside for some requisite sunlight.
I am exaggerating, but I am sure you can imagine how this event sent my anxiety soaring, but I was able to recognize it before it spiraled out of control. I beging using the mantra “I do not own safety. I do not own people.” My step-son is one of the greatest blessings of my life, but he does not belong to me. I have to work to be at peace that the universe, his guides and god will always protect him.
I used tree pose or vrksasana to demonstrate non-attachment or possessiveness. I love how this pose feels both grounding and lifting simultaneously. In order to stay stable in this pose, the standing foot must be firmly grounded and connected to the earth. The breath has to flow calmly and freely, the body lifts and the crown of the head connects to a higher source. If you hold your breath, become anxious or overthink it, you will fall out of this pose. Tree pose takes both tremendous focus and freedom of the mind, just like the journey to non-attachment.

aparigraha

Music Monday: Heal the World

I venture to say most of you have heard about the tragic massacre in San Bernardino that occurred last week.

I am pretty gutted by this one, especially because I have to refer to it as “this one,” to distinguish it from so many other mass shootings that have occurred in the United States.

I live in San Bernardino. My house is not far from where the shooting occurred. It has not hit too close to home. It has hit home. It felt so surreal to see my city all over news outlets, with familiar streets and sites.

The sadness and outrage I feel in no way compares to that of friends and families of the victims, the injured and those who were present, in fear of their own lives.

I cannot believe this happened again, but, of course I can, it’s an issue that is still not being addressed. I still cannot wrap my head around the fact that it happened in my city, but why should we be exempt? UGH. I HATE (and I do not use that word freely) how common this has become. I HATE that it has hurt my community. I HATE that more families are hurting, scared and shaken.

I do not want to rant about my personal political views, desires for policy change, speculation for motives or personal feelings about implications and aftermath. There is enough of that going around and I feel drained.

What I need to process through in this space and maybe along with you, is HURT and HEALING. When I feel like my head will explode if I ask myself one more “WHY?” question, I have to look back on my own personal experiences of hurt and healing for support.

These tragedies of course strike up personal chords. I can empathize with what it feels like to lose someone to gun violence. Certainly not in this magnitude, and I will not pretend to understand the pain of these loved ones, but I I can sympathize somewhat. A violent loss is different from other loses. I still deal with the loss of my father to gun violence and crime. I still enter court rooms and sit feet away from the accused. There was fear, anger, nightmares and profound sadness that followed and emotions that I still, and always will, encounter.

At the simplest level, I think it comes down to “hurt people hurt people.” This phrase has helped me not hate. This phrase has helped me let go of valid anger. This phrase helped me not be scared anymore. Most importantly, this phrase helps me be mindful of the way I treat each and every entity on this planet.

I know I am an idealist. I know I have far-out-head-in-the-clouds-hippie ideals, with bleeding heart liberal values and can be too idealistic. But maybe, if we all treated one another a bit kinder, or at the very least, not go out of our way to hurt one another, well, maybe we would stop giving others the motivation to want to hurt us.

I am not saying the shooters did this because someone called them names. But, I cannot help but wonder what level of hurt they experienced in their own lives, to motivate them to so viciously hurt others.

If I had it my way, everyone would have enough to eat and their food would be affordable without additives, preservatives or dyes. Every animal would have a peaceful, happy life and every child that wanted a puppy would get one. Everyone would do yoga and practice preventative medicine. No one would liter. We would all have open and peaceful communication and solve our issues through conflict management practices. No one would own or need a gun. Hunting would be thought of as a past barbaric practice and protection would be unnecessary because no one would not want to hurt each other.

I know this will never happen, but sometimes I can’t help but wonder…

At the very least, can we just stop being so mean to each other? Can we not go out of our way to say an unnecessary comment, post a spiteful reply, give a dirty look or let our FEAR take over?

I feel that fear is the true motivating force behind those types of mean behaviors and I feel that it is running completely rampant right now. I sure do not blame anyone for feeling fearful, but it bums me out to see how pervasive and dangerous it is becoming.

Can we make the conscious effort to not be afraid?

It’s hard. Really hard.

My dad was shot and killed in March of 2012. An arrest was not made until July 2012. The first fews weeks, I was fearfully obsessed that “the shooter was out there.”

I remember suspiciously looking at people. I remember creating stereotypes in mind of who this person must be that pulled that trigger and when I saw someone that fit that description, I would look them in the eye and think, “was it you?” I remember feeling my intestines quiver. I remember constantly feeling anxious and fearful. I had a hard time sleeping and woke up multiple times per night from nightmares.

Somewhere in my grieving brain, logic kicked in and said, “you have to stop!” I accredited this to my yoga and the awareness that I had been starting to practice on my mat.

It had to be an extremely conscious decision to not be afraid anymore. I had to take deep breaths when I went out in public and be completely at peace with the knowledge that the person who killed my dad was somewhere free. I had to separate the justice and legal process from my healing process and VERY consciously re-focus on my health, sleep and heart.

Can we all make that commitment to consciously practice awareness of our fear? Can we try not to stereotype, blame, argue and fight? Can we agree that maybe we disagree about many things, but be OK with not changing minds and proving ourselves “right”?

Can we just for a moment, stop pushing our personal agendas and speculations and just support one another? Seriously, can we just give one another a hug? We really need it.

I have been listening to this song. MJ has comforted me through many times and helped me make sense of some pretty trying situations. I know it seems like a childish notion to simply be nice and loving, but maybe that simplicity is what we need to return to. Be nice. Treat others how they want to be treated. Be OK with being wrong. Don’t let fear win.

I wish I had better answers. I wish I knew what to do to stop the hurt. But maybe, can we start with healing and letting go of fear?

There Are Ways
To Get There
If You Care Enough
For The Living
Make A Little Space
Make A Better Place…

Mantra Monday “I Am Not My Feelings”

I am currently participating in The Mindfulness Summit, a free, online conference that allows users access to daily speakers discussing various perspectives on mindfulness. I have learned quite a bit so far and some of my favorite topics have been mindful parenting, mindful eating and mindful business.

I had a huge “A-HA” moment on Day 12, when I heard Sam Harris speak on Spirituality Without Religion. Since that is part of almost my daily conversation with Ed and the premise for this blog, I was certainly interested in a mindful perspective of the topic.

One of the takeaways from the lecture was when Sam Harris talked about how feelings are temporary and how often we suffer because we ascribe permanent identity to our non-permanent feelings.

I do this often.

I get caught up in my anxiety, my stress and my irritability. I struggle with being an “anxious person” who does not handle stress well. However, I am learning to separate my anxious feelings from myself and merely observe them. My feelings are valid, my feelings are important. But, my feelings do not define me.

I am not my feelings

To help myself with this, I have been using the mantra “I Am Not My Feelings.” This has really been helping me remember that my suffering is a temporary state and says very little about my character, soul or future.

I hope this mantra can also help you at some point in your week, when maybe you get caught up in a temporary situation, that feels permanent.

In love and sisterhood,

~Ang

The Ugliness of Anxiety

I posted this entry Monday on my personal blog and thought I would also share here some of the spiritual things I am currently working through. Thank-you for reading. XO-Ang

I have had anxiety for as long as I can remember.

I was a nervous kid who worried about everything. There was definitely some circumstances in my life that added to my worry and stress, but mostly, it was self-created and perpetuated. Looking back, I recognize certain obsessions, compulsions and rituals I carried out as characteristic of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I eventually grew out of some of the compulsive behavior, but the anxiety was always there.

I experienced my first full-blown anxiety attack when I was in college. I was a psychology major and recognized what I was experiencing, but did not know how to deal with it. I simply went through it and eventually it got better. This happened a few more times through my early 20s.

My anxiety has had peaks and valleys throughout my life and there are lapses of time when it does not even seem to be present. I have been managing it very well the past few years and the last time it was truly out of control was around the time my dad was killed. His death brought about a huge turning point in my anxiety. I was always scared of something BAD happening. Then, something bad, very, very bad, in fact, did happen. My dad was shot and killed and no amount of my own rituals, compulsions, positive thoughts or worries could have prevented that. No amount of freaking out, crying, blaming or falling apart afterwards could change what had happened. I was outwardly broken and weak and somehow, this was freeing.

One of the most difficult parts of my anxiety has been trying to hide it from others. I try to appear outwardly strong at all times. I am perfectionist who wants to have it all together. I want to be an amazing counselor who helps others and a zen yoga teacher who brings about peace and comfort. I want to be the best wife, step-mom, daughter, sister, cousin, friend and citizen that I can be. I feel sometimes that I fail miserably at absolutely everything and I can barely keep myself together.

Usually, I can control this. Usually, I deal with the racing thoughts, the worries, stressors and inner arguments my brain experiences through meditation, yoga, counting my mala beads, inhaling my lavender oil, journaling, returning to gratitude, talking to my husband or close friend, running, singing or hiking.

My anxiety expresses itself in the forms of tension, migraines, cold sores and skin rashes. These are my warning signs that I need to be more mindful about my stress levels and get ahold of myself. In it’s ugliest form, my anxiety blows up to crying spells, tightness in my chest, hyperventilating and a complete inability to function. This does not happen very often, but it happened this weekend and I am so embarrassed.

I should have seen this coming, but I let myself get too busy to deal with it properly. I started a new job two weeks ago. I absolutely love it, but am still adjusting and learning. My schedule for this month and next is jam-packed. I have little down time on the weekends and this has caused my anxiety to jump exponentially. I am someone who really needs sacred time to myself to re-charge, re-focus and rejuvenate.

When it comes down to it though, it’s not the fault of my new job, new shifts or busy schedule that is causing my anxiety. It’s me. It’s how I deal with stress, busyness and things outside of my control. I think this is what bothers me most. I feel that I am broken, defective and unable to cope. I feel like I have no right to feel this way or fall apart.

I have a wonderful life and a gratitude list miles long. My “problems” are truly first world in nature and my list of worries are enough to be grateful for, when I list them I realize I truly don’t have much to complain about.

However, I do recognize how dangerous this thought process can be. Feelings need to be felt and it does not matter what I outwardly want to present as or be, I have issues just like everyone else and this why I am finally talking about them. It was difficult for me to share about this ugliness on this space, but I know I am not the only one and I want you to know you are not either, even though it can certainly feel that way at times.

I am taking this week one day at a time. I am finding solace in opening up about my anxiety to you, organizing my tasks into smaller chunks (with colored pens and my pink planner. It’s a proven fact that colored pens help with anxiety) using Bach’s Resuce Remedy as needed and simply being OK, with not being OK (you can read about this here).

rescue remedy

Talk to me. Please share in the comments what you do to deal with anxiety or how you deal with those portions of your life you feel embarrassed or ashamed of?

Mantra Monday-“It’s OK to NOT be OK.”

It's OK to not be OK

I have to be honest, I am really struggling this week.

I have struggled with anxiety since I was a kid. It comes in waves and has been more intense and then barely noticeable at different points in my life.

This past week it has been mounting and spilled over into a full-blown anxiety attack yesterday.

I truly hate talking about this and sharing it with everyone. I feel ashamed and embarrassed. However, one of the few things I have learned is that it really is OK to not be OK and although it may feel isolating at times, I know I am not the only one.

My spiritual sister helps remind me that it is OK to not have it completely together all the time and that perfection is truly an illusion. I feel more authentic and open being honest with my struggles although there is still apart of that feels I should have this figured out and under control by now. I am a counselor and a yoga teacher, why haven’t I worked through this yet?

And yet, another part of me knows how hard I have worked through this and I know enough about anxiety to know it is a journey and probably will not ever completely disappear. It will constantly be something I have to sort and work through.

Whether you are struggling with anxiety or something else today, I want to tell you that it’s OK to not be OK. You are not broken, defective or crazy. You are not alone. You are not the only one. No one is perfect or has it all together, no matter what type of image you may perceive they are portraying.

Do you believe it is OK to not be OK sometimes?

Music Monday: The Mama’s Broken Heart Version

Do you handle conflict, stress, set backs and anxiety exactly the way your Mama would like you to?

I sure don’t, not always.

When I first heard this Miranda Lambert song, it resonated with me so deeply. I wondered when Miranda had met my mother.

Although my mom is not concerned with appearances or the way we look to others, I have heard my fair amount of “you are being too dramatic,” “what are you crying for? That does not solve anything.” “Get it together,” “act like a young lady.”

I know this all came from my mom’s best intentions to prepare me for a world and life that was a roller coaster and would stop just because I was having a melt down. Again.

I have always seen my mom as a pillar of strength. Fiercely independent, resilient and forever overcoming obstacles. I am not naturally like this, and I definitely was not while growing up.

My mom recently found a folder with my old journal entries from my sophmore year of English class. We were given a prompt each day to explore. One day, I wrote about how HORRIBLE my day had been because I spilled all my French fries at lunch, which kick started a wave of unfortunate events. I read it aloud and my mom and I both laughed at my dramatics. However, when I thought about it, I could still see myself getting upset about the same thing today, nearly 16 years later. French fries are important.

I was the anxious kid who went ballistic when I had my first cavity, when I got an F on a test (and this only ever happened once, because it was that traumatic) and when my mom would not allow me to use furniture polish to clean (because cleaning was important to me). This picture says so much about how I have handled set backs, and I can picture my mom behind the camera laughing at me as she snapped away:

anxiety Her responses snapped me back into reality and times when she was not present and I felt like I was losing it, I would hear her in the back of my head “crying does not solve everything.”

I found a balance now between my natural, emotional tendencies and my mom’s realistic approach to set-backs. I do feel that crying is necessary and healthy, but I can pull myself together and overcome. Most days.

But some days, I still cry over spilled French fries.

How were you taught handle set backs? 

 

Youthful Decisions and the No Clue Blues: Part 3

“The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.” Aristotle

There comes a point in life when life itself becomes the classroom.  There are no classes, lectures or degrees one can attend or attain in order to by-pass the hard lessons that need to be learned.

As I move forward, I’ve decided to keep all the spiritual practices I’ve learned along the way and apply them into my daily routine.  There’s still a lingering temptation to go back to the one dimensional way I use to worship which feels more comfortable and familiar, but then I’d be going back to something that really wasn’t truly me.

There’s also something about walking the thin line between heathen and saint; when I walk the line of Mary Magdalene, I feel fully human, full of imperfections and mistakes.  When I walk the line of sainthood I feel the peace that not even the world can bring.

Love,

Ed

I spent most of the earlier parts of my 20s working hard to achieve goals. I was constantly working towards the next thing and trying to be better. Once I finished my Bachelors, it was on to my Masters and working hard at an internship to hopefully land a great job. Then, it was working on my credential and pursuing a more secure career. Once that was set, my attention turned to running and I started training for marathons, racking up miles and tearing up my knees. I strove to run faster and longer. I averaged running 3 marathons per year for about 3 years.

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I realized later that so much of the motivation behind all of the achieving and working was fear/anxiety based. I felt that I had to work hard so I had a secure future. I felt that I had to do something productive and impressive with my time. When I really stopped to think about it, I realized that I was dealing with anxiety for so many years and keeping myself busy was a way to keep my anxious thoughts at bay.

What was I anxious about? Everything and anything.

There was mostly this underlying fear I had that something bad would happen. There was no true basis for this fear, but I would create fearful scenarios in my head and lead myself into a full-fledged panic attack, thinking about all the bad things that could happen. My family could get in a horrible car accident. I could be struck with some terrible disease and die a slow, painful death. The list of horrible thoughts I put myself through goes on and on. As I reflect back, I realize it was fearfully clinging to everything I was attached to and afraid to lose.

I had been working on my anxiety and seeing small improvements. When I was 28 years old, my father was shot and killed. This event was a turning point in my life for so many reasons, but I bring it up here to explain how strangely enough, it freed me of my anxiety.

I was always so fearful of “something bad” happening, and then something very bad did happen. It was absolutely the worst and a difficult time for my family. However, it was how I death with this event that released me from my anxiety. I used yoga, meditation and lots of friend/family support to get me through. I realized that something very bad did happen…and, I got through it. I was able to live through the pain, fear, anger, sadness and grief. It is possible for bad things to happen and still come through the situations.

Although I still struggle with anxiety, it is much more manageable and identifiable. I recognize when it’s creeping in and use some of the coping mechanisms that have worked before to address it, before it gets out of control.

In love and peace,

~Ang