Transformation Is Painful

Energy is a funny thing.  We all think we’ve got unlimited resources of it until we hit the wall of burn-out.  We’re tired for no apparent reason, we feel unmotivated and uninspired.

Everything we do takes energy, and things that take up our energy are not limited to just the obvious activities like exercising or moving around.  Writing this blog post takes energy.  Reading this blog post also takes energy.  Checking your e-mail, responding to e-mail, reading that text, responding to that text…even thinking takes energy.  There’s no difference between the physical energy that you exert when you’re running or practicing yoga and the energy that you spend doing something passive like thinking.  It’s all energy and it all eventually runs out. In yoga speak, energy is prana, which means the life force flowing through you.  Lately I’ve come to realize just how precious it really is and how important it is that we don’t squander away energy just like we wouldn’t squander away saved up money.

Every once in a while, when I need to unwind and let go, I do a guided yoga nidra meditation.  Yoga nidra is a meditation done lying on the floor, eyes closed, body completely still as you focus your attention on the sensations in different parts of your body from the subtle to the gross.  There’s also some visualization involved and towards the end, I’m asked, “Are you living your heart’s desire?”

This question always disturbs me because if I were to answer it honestly, the answer would be no.  There hasn’t been enough of the things I love in my life lately.  This ties in with what I’ve been saying about energy because I’ve been guilty of taking my energy reserves for granted and mindlessly investing energy into things that don’t truly bring me joy.  Of course there are things that we have to invest energy into, like our jobs and our daily obligations.  But what are you doing with what’s left over?

The yoga nidra meditation I follow instructs you to state your sankalpa three times at the beginning, and three times again at the end.  A sankalpa is an intention that brings about a positive change in your life.  And through a regular yoga nidra practice your sankalpa will eventually come true.

My most recent sankalpa is “I will remove everything in my life that does not serve me.”  It means that I no longer want to invest my energy into things that do not serve me in any positive way.  This includes habits, things and even people.  I believe that setting your intention and being serious about it will gradually send opportunities your way and open your awareness to allow you to make choices that align with your intention.  According to the article I linked to above, “sankalpa has the potential to release tremendous power by clearly defining and focusing on a chosen goal. Its effect is to awaken the willpower within by uniting the conscious awareness with the unconscious forces lying dormant.”

When you set your intention to remove things from your life that no longer serve you, you might lose some people along the way.  I had a friend who recently told me in an e-mail that she has to remove herself from me while I’m going through the things I’m going through right now, because her life is finally falling into place the way she’s wanted it to and she just can’t be around “this kind” of environment.  However, she does offer her quiet support from far away.  While I respect her right to speak her truth, I was deeply hurt by her words.  I didn’t quite realize how hurt until I found myself crying a couple of days after reading her e-mail.  The force of her rejection finally broke down whatever protective walls I had around my heart and out came the tears.  Later on it became clear that her friendship does not align with what I believe friendship is.  And so I’ve made my decision not to re-connect with her, even once the clouds in my life have passed and things are again going well.

Energy is a precious thing, and it would do us all a lot of good to closely pay attention to how we invest it.  Instead of wasting energy on things and relationships that aren’t helping us flourish, we could be investing that same energy on other things and relationships that do.

I once had a yoga teacher that said, “Transformation is painful.”  I will never forget those words because of how true they are.  Transformation involves giving up your attachment to what you have been all this time and inviting in a new, as-yet-unknown version of yourself.  Even if what you’re giving up no longer serves you, it’s human nature to cling to what we know even if it’s not necessarily good for us.  But by taking it one small step at a time — as small as you want to make it — you gradually come to know more and more about who you’re becoming, mindful of the choices you’re making, and eventually it becomes home.  The journey is difficult, scary, uncomfortable and sometimes stormy.  But through the process, always, always, love and be kind to yourself.

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Goodbye, Brooklyn.  This almost breaks my heart.  Almost.  I’m happy I don’t have to hear your home crowd go “Brooooooooo-klyn…Brooooooooo-klyn…Brooooooooooo-klyn!” ever again.  At least for this season.  Good try though.

Goodbye Brooklyn

30 Days of Character Development: Prompts #25 – 26

25.) Describe your character’s hands. Are they small, long, calloused, smooth, stubby?

Ellie’s hands are delicate-looking with long fingers.  Her fingers are long and thin, and look as delicate as icicles.  Her hands are smooth and often cool to the touch.   There is a scar on her left hand from getting bitten by Orson Welles the English bulldog when she was a child.  When she paints her nails black, her fingers often remind her of piano keys.

26.) Second day of favorites! Favorite comfort food, favorite vice, favorite outfit, favorite hot drink, favorite time of year, and favorite holiday. 

comfort food - french toast

vice – cigarettes

outfit – leggings and a long top with flats or sandals for comfort

hot drink – coffee

time of year – just after the new year when everything starts to settle down from the buzz of the holidays

holiday - Christmas

On Applying the Bhagavad Gita to Online Dating (or, Dating From a Yogic Perspective)

keyboard-heart

Online dating is hard.  At best it’s a whole world of potential dates/hookups/relationships/whatever you’re looking for right at your fingertips, available to you for a monthly fee (or in the case of some sites like Plenty of Fish and OKCupid, totally free).  At worst it can be an exhausting, soul-numbing process that leaves you wanting to just shut down your account altogether.  Sometimes you form a connection, only to have the other person mysteriously disappear, leaving you helpless in reaching them any other way because they’ve suddenly shut down their account.  Sometimes you send that first message and you get no response at all.  Which is fine when it happens for the first or second time, but when it happens for more times than you care to count, it leaves you going, “Aw, come on!”  especially when you can’t find anything particularly objectionable in your profile or what you said in your message that makes people not respond.  And miscommunication happens all the time when your primary means of communication are written messages exchanged back and forth.  Without the help of facial expression, tone of voice, gestures, etc., sometimes you’re left completely clueless as to how the other person intended their message to be taken.  I often say to those around me who have never had to go this route that they are very. very. lucky.  VERY. LUCKY.

“You have a right to perform your prescribed duty, but you are not entitled to the fruits of action. Never consider yourself the cause of the results of your activities, and never be attached to not doing your duty.”Bhagavad Gita 2.47

Because online dating seems to be a necessary evil, especially if you have a busy life and all your friends are pretty much settled and their friends are also settled, leaving your options for meeting new people limited, one has to find ways to stay sane.  I’ve been thinking lately about the concept of doing (as in taking action) without attachment to the results of one’s actions.  The concept is not original to me, it’s actually talked about in the Bhagavad Gita.  You act and then let go.  You take the action that you choose to take and remind yourself that your role in the whole system stops there.  And the results have nothing to do with you.  It’s really hard because the second you hit “send” after typing your well-thought out message, the anxiety of will-I-or-won’t-I-hear-from-him-again sets in.  Attachment to wanting to hear back from the guy causes you to be bound to the result you want, and attachment causes suffering.  Especially when you don’t get the result that you want.  You start blaming yourself, never considering that you don’t know the whole story, and that maybe the reason you didn’t get a response back had nothing to do with you.  Maybe it’s just the person’s life right now or maybe it’s something entirely unknown.  It’s a very heavy burden to carry around, when you take responsibility for the reactions of other people.

I’ve begun doing this practice where, whenever I find myself anxious, worrying about someone’s response or someone’s non-response, I tell myself, “You did your part.  You acted out of your true nature, which is all you’re asked to do.  Your part is done, and the other person is free to act according to his own will.”  Instantly I feel a shift in my energy where I feel grounded instead of feeling like I’m being dragged around by the wild horses of my attachment to the response I want.  It also brings the focus of my own energy back to me, instead of the other person, who I can’t control.  Subtly it also reinforces a feeling that there is never anything wrong with acting from a place of authenticity.  And I don’t know about you, but I want someone to love me for who I am, and not who I let them think I am.

Again, I can’t stress enough that online dating is really hard.  The biggest favor you can do for yourself is to be authentic and act from that place in your being.  When you put the focus on the good feeling you get when you reach out to someone or simply express yourself authentically, instead of on the anticipation of the response, you discover that there’s a joy in reaching out to another human being and presenting yourself as you are.  There’s so much emphasis on the response that we forget that simply expressing ourselves to someone else in a genuine manner is itself a gift, both to ourselves and to others.  Over time, the dependence on the response becomes less as you realize that your happiness does not depend on the response but actually starts with you.

 

30 Days of Character Development: Prompts #22 – 24

22.) If your character could time travel, where would they go?

Ellie would go back to the late 1930’s into the 1940’s, just at the outbreak of World War II.  She has a fascination with the time period, particularly with the Nazi era and the Holocaust.  She isn’t sure how this interest in this period of history came to be, but likely it was from having watched a documentary when she was only eight years old in which she saw footage of the victims in the concentration camps and the mass graves in which hundreds of bodies were dumped like rag dolls instead of human beings.  What she saw on the television screen never left her memory.

23.) Is your character superstitious? 

Slightly.

24.) What might your character’s ideal romantic partner be?

Ellie has no idea what she wants.  Sometimes she thinks she wants someone more like herself, but other times she feels maybe that she could do with someone quite the opposite.  Although this is the case, there are traits in every ex-boyfriend she’s ever had (which weren’t many) that they all share with Thomas, her father.  They all were very intelligent, they made her laugh, and were self-made in one way or another.

30 Days of Character Development: Prompts #17 – 21

Killing multiple birds with one stone again…

17.) What’s your character’s desk/workspace look like? Are they neat or messy?

Ellie is very organized.  She likes everything in its place, but not to the point of OCD.

18.) Is your character a good cook? What’s their favorite recipe, whether they’re good or not? (Microwave mac-and-cheese applies.)

Ellie is horrible in the kitchen, but it doesn’t stop her from trying.  That said, she likes the simplest recipes best because they’re hard to mess up.  She makes a pretty good pasta with olive oil and garlic sprinkled with parmesan cheese.

19.) What’s your character’s preferred means of travel? 

Ellie likes to drive whenever she can.  She enjoys seeing the country as she passes through different states on her way to her varous destinations.  Obviously, when it comes to overseas travel, she likes to fly.

20.) Does your character have any irrational fears? 

Getting stuck in an elevator, though it has never happened to her.  She’s uneasy in elevators for that reason.

21.) What would your character’s CUTIE MARK be?

This is a My Little Pony reference and I am not going to dignify this with an answer.  Why don’t you just ask me what her tramp stamp would be if she had one?

30 Days of Character Development: Prompt #16

16) Are there any blood relatives that your character is particularly close with, besides the immediate ones? Cousins, Uncles, Grandfathers, Aunts, et cetera. Are there any others that your character practically considers a blood relative? 

Great Aunt Greta, or “Gertie” as everyone called her, was like a second mother to Ellie.  Aunt Greta is someone some would call a spinster, but it was a fate she chose for herself.  Gertie had many suitors in her day, and she had one great love.  He proposed marriage, but for reasons of her own which remain a mystery to the family, Gertie refused.  Always allowed at the adults’ table during family gatherings at her home, Ellie would hear the chatter about Gertie living all alone in a big house and what a shame she never started a family of her own, and many references to the man she could have married.  Of course, no one suspected Ellie really listened.  Her quiet ways as a child served her well since the adults often forgot she was in the room and spoke freely in her presence.  An intelligent girl, Ellie drew her own conclusions that one does not want to end up like Gertie, living alone in a house with her three cocker spaniels (though to Ellie, at the age of 7 it seemed like great fun to live that way).  It would be a terrible thing to be an “old maid”  and never marry.  Much like the adults around her, Ellie adopted an attitude of pity towards Gertie who lived alone and never married.

Because Gertie lived alone and had all the time in the world, Gertie would take Ellie on “ladies outings” during which they brunched in fancy restaurants and went shopping in small boutiques in town.  Gertie would spoil Ellie and tell her to pick out anything she’d like from the shops and she would buy it for her.  Jane often told Ellie not to take advantage of Gertie’s generosity, so Ellie would try not to go crazy picking out everything she liked.  Nonetheless, Gertie was great fun and never seemed unhappy despite the lifestyle that everyone pitied her for.

When Ellie was a teenager, Gertie and Ellie would spend some afternoons looking through the old photographs in Gertie’s attic and Gertie would tell her stories of the parties she attended in her youth and the many boys who courted her.  Ellie was itching to ask about the man who was supposedly the great love of Gertie’s life, but she was too polite.  She waited for Gertie to mention this man, but she never did, so Ellie wondered if he was in any of the pictures.  If he was, Gertie never pointed him out with any significant change in her demeanor.

As Ellie got older, she and Gertie didn’t spend as much time together since Ellie moved to New York, but they would often e-mail and sometimes Gertie would visit Ellie and they would try to relive their “ladies outings” with the exception that Ellie, now a working woman, would pay her own way.