Saturday, June 16, 2012

Yoga Spider

I love nature and being outdoors. I'm at home swimming in oceans and climbing mountains. It's not strange to see me helping an earthworm off a sun-baked sidewalk into moist dirt, or holding and examining a lizard with my son.

But my love of nature has limits. Roaches are beyond my limit. Mosquitos are beyond my limit. Those strange, centipede/spider, hybrid, basement dwellers are beyond my limit. Stuff like that.

Let me preface the remainder of this blog with a note. I love spiders. Well, to be more accurate... I love the concept of spiders. I like that they build webs to catch bugs that are "beyond my limits" and then eat them. Spiders do the dirty work I don't want or like to do. So I love them. I don't particularly like them too close to me, though.

With that prologue out of the way, I will continue.

This past Thursday was a limit tester for me. I was teaching a gentle flowing Yoga - Qi Gong fusion class at a corporate office. The fitness center and wellness room is in the basement of the large five-story office building. As with most basements, we often get crawly friends visiting our Yoga class. The students and I are pretty used to it, and we simply shoo pesky friends away, sweep them out the door, or (in unfortunate and extreme cases) smash them with a shoe.

I'm usually pretty calm about bugs in the Yoga room. Cause I'm a nature chick, right? I'm the queen of outdoor sunrise or sunset Yoga and meditation. I calmly share my Yoga mat with ants, beetles and grasshoppers. I welcome a butterfly or moth landing on my arm while I'm in seated meditation under the sun. Bring on the bugs!

So back to this past Thursday. I wanted to provide a prop for one of the students to assist her in a move. I quickly scanned the room and found a low block resting in a dark corner behind the stereo. I was still speaking in my Yoga voice (my Yoga voice is really soft and soothing and puts people to sleep) as I stooped to pick up the block. And there it was. A tarantula-like hairy spider. I can't quite recall exactly what sound I made, but it was not in my Yoga voice. But the class didn't seem to hear me, so I quickly went back to what I was saying, brought the students out of the pose and had them resting with their heads down as I contemplated what to do with Hairy Spider. Hairy Spider helped me with my decision as it began to crawl toward one of the students.

"Um," I started. "I don't want to alarm anyone, but there is a rather large spider crawling toward us, so let's rearrange the room," I said in my Yoga voice.

I guess I said it too calmly because no one moved right away. But as the students followed my gaze, immediate rearranging took place. A minute later, we were back on our mats and moving through another series of poses when Hairy Spider started crawling again.

"It's on the move. It's on the move." That's all I said in my Yoga voice. And just as calmly as I'd said it, one of the students lifted a nearby trashcan and covered Hairy Spider with it. Problem solved.

I won't lie to you... I felt the hairs on my arms standing up as I taught. And I couldn't seem to get back into the rhythm of my flow. I kept feeling like Hairy Spider was going to get out and crawl on my leg while I was resting in Svasana with my eyes closed. I felt like I was being tested. Like my zen limits were being challenged. Why was Hairy Spider affecting me in this way?

At the end of class, I knew I couldn't leave Hairy Spider there. The next person to walk in that room would move the trash can, see Hairy and kill him. I couldn't allow that. So I overcame my fears and removed the trashcan, allowing Hairy Spider to crawl free.

I don't know where Hairy Spider is now, and I'm okay with that.

Monday, June 11, 2012


Before April 2011, I had never fasted. I never saw a reason to do it.

I attend a church that fasts annually. The annual church fast is not only from food, but also from media - telephone, television, social media, radio, etc. A media fast? Now that was something I needed to take a break from. Last year, I completely ignored the food fast and implemented portions of the media fast. Yeah, I said portions. I'm not a cold-turkey kinda chick. I have to do things in stages... see how it feels on me.

Instead of abstaining from all forms of media all day, I chose what and when I'd restrict. Since social media and telephone use are part of my work day, I allowed it during the day for work purposes only, and chose two days when I'd stop using them after hours. I only answered the phone for my kids, husband and mother. I abstained from listening to music and talk radio the entire week. I don't watch television very much anyway, so it wasn't a hardship to not watch for the week. I even took one day and refrained from speaking unless I had to for work. Completely. I didn't talk to my kids or husband all day (I kind of liked that part).

The result was great. Practicing silence in all forms - speaking, listening, writing - allowed my thoughts to flow more naturally and I felt like I could hear myself and other energy sources communicating with me. I loved the experience so much that I reduced how much I listen to the radio, music, and the news on a regular basis. I tape the tv shows I want to watch and designate a day and time to sit and enjoy them - I don't flip channels looking for something to fill empty space and time. Each morning, I purposely practice silence as a part of my daily routine and meditation. I feel much more aware and in tune to myself, the people around me, and the spiritual messages around me.

But this blog is about my recent experience with my first food fast.

April 2012. My sister-friend, Yvonne, had just passed away the previous month and I couldn't bring myself to attend church. Everything reminded me of her and all I did was cry through the service. So I didn't go for a month. When I returned on April 22, they were discussing the annual fast. Each day had a personal focus like repentance or relationships. Each day required no eating until 6:00pm and only fruits and veggies could be consumed after 6:00pm. Only water and fruit juices could be drunk. No media was allowed after 6:00pm.

I felt like I needed to stop and allow me to be first for awhile. I hadn't been first while Yvonne was sick. I hadn't been first when I transported her to hospice and we began planning - writing her will, getting bank accounts in order, deeding her house, planning her funeral. I was nowhere near first as I put her needs first, then my children, then my husband, then my business. I knew I would be okay. I felt strong - stronger than anyone else in her family or mine. I felt like I was the base of the pyramid, holding it all safely together for everyone. And everyone looked to me to be there and be the strength they needed and were lacking.

So when I saw the fast coming on April 29, 2012, I knew at that very moment I wouldn't wait. I would start the next day on April 23. I liked the daily principles set by the church, but my needs were different. I decided each day, I'd wake up, see what my morning meditation told me was my focus principle and that's what it would be. Period.

I could make this blog long and drawn out. I could detail each day with funny anecdotes of how hungry I got around 3:00 each day, which made me irritable and impatient. I could also highlight the good moments when I felt clean and light and aware and strong. All those things happened. Each day was different. Day 2 was the hardest. Day 1 and 4 were the easiest. I was ready to shut it all down by Day 5, so I did. I just stopped fasting and starting eating at about 4:15pm on Friday afternoon.

When I meditated on what I learned during the fast, the most important thing had nothing to do with spirituality, strength or control. It had nothing to do with the principles on which I focused each day, even though they were great and helped me heal after my friend's death. The most valuable lesson I learned from the fast is what foods my body cannot tolerate at this stage in my life.

When I would eat in the evening during the fast, I always started with fruit. Strawberries, grapes, oranges, or a banana. I would follow that with nuts - peanuts or cashews. For dinner, I'd have a salad of carrots, cucumbers and a lettuce mix. Or I sauteed zucchini, squash and onions in garlic powder, pepper and season salt. All of it was delicious and I actually felt full each night.

Cereal and milk. That ended the joy. The bloating, abdominal pain and gas that came with my favorite quick snack were almost unbearable. I haven't used regular milk since 1999 when my son started drinking regular milk after nursing. I always use lactose-free, skim milk with extra calcium. I've been using Lactaid in the purple container with the yellow banner across the top for the last 5 or 6 years. But on Wednesday April 25, Lactaid was not my friend. And I haven't consumed it since that date.

For the last few years, I thought it was raw vegetables that had been causing me gastric distress. I LOVE raw vegetables! I'd been restricting my intake of raw zucchini, squash, carrots and broccoli for years hoping my abdominal discomfort would end. I only eat tiny meals throughout the day to lesson any pain. Now, one of my favorite meals and snack - cereal and milk - has shown itself to the culprit! I'm both happy and sad with the realization.

This month, I scheduled an appointment with a new physician - a medical internist that is also a holistic doctor. The visit was thorough and wonderfully informative. After our discussion about gastric issues and other side affects to bread, pasta and dairy, she recommended a probiotic called Align. I've been taking Align as prescribed for one week and the results have been amazing for the main symptoms. I also switched to soy milk.

My fast revealed a great deal. Things about my spirit, my strength, my tolerance, and my weaknesses. It was a spiritual reawakening, a mental rejuvenation, and a physical revelation. My husband has forbade me from ever doing it again (remember those short-tempered, irritable moments I told you about). I may and I may not. But for now, I'm where I need to be and content with today.