Losing Control & Finding Gratitude: A not-so-zen journey


I am not what you think of when you think of a yogi. I cuss too much, drink too much and sometimes eat cheese balls. I’m not “zen.” I’m a high-energy-over-achieving-perfectionist-fire-sign-pitta person. So those things are naturally kind of in opposition.

Though I’m still flexible and able to do all the poses pretty perfectly, my body doesn’t look like it once did, flowing through asanas, standing up from wheel pose on day three of a fruit fast, light as a feather. And I’m okay with that right now, finally.

Because what I’ve learned is right where we are in this moment is where we’re meant to be and that is enough. I am enough. You are enough. Just like we are, right now.

Sometimes it takes other people and events to bring us back into focus – on the present (think of it as a gift), the here and now – to appreciate what we do have in this moment.

This week the universe had a message to share with me and if only I opened my heart to the stillness between breaths, I could hear it.

I am going through a transformation – we all are at any given time on our journey through this life right? But I am going through a conscious evolution, with my yoga studio, and a program based on a book called “40 Days to a Personal Revolution” by Baron Baptiste, whose yoga style I have been practicing for over a dozen years now. This is the fourth or fifth time I’ve done this revolution (see I can’t even keep track – my mind just doesn’t have space for such details) but what I can tell you is that each time, has been a unique growth.

This year I looked back on my journaling from the program I did in 2014 and saw where the studio’s founder Lisa Taylor asked us what we would be up to in 10 years if we removed all ideas of limitation and could have whatever we wanted. I had written that I could see myself working with children, that I had always wanted to be a teacher in some way, and wanted to find ways to use my creativity to inspire others. I had forgotten all about that dream, but like Lisa said, when we tell people what we’re up to, it makes it so. I have always believed that too. I like to tell people my dreams, it makes them real, and makes them come true. I have always faked it till I made it when I didn’t know what I was doing I figured it out – and most of the time succeeded but some of the time failed, and that’s all okay. And this summer of 2016 as I looked back on that journal from two years ago, here I am coming up on my 4th week of summer camps where my daughter and I have hosted up to 12 three to seven year olds a couple days a week each month exploring the world through cooking, crafting, cultural and language learning. And it has been one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever created with such wonderful people (the little ones and their mamas to whom I’m grateful for affirming the value in what I’m up to).

Some years doing the “40 Days” program with Evolution Power Yoga have been more “successful” than others in some measurements, mainly my weight. This year has been different. I am in my mid 30s. I am comfortable with who I am and the body I am in. Albeit a body that has gone from a 2 to a 12 to grow and prioritize my child and my career over my ideal size. But I am who I am right now, and I am enough. (I am more than enough in my larger size if I think of it that way!) Some years I lost up to 15 pounds detoxing and finishing with a fruit fast (which the instructors try to call a “fruit feast” and I just laugh at them for being so damn positive about three days of starving). But this year’s program is different. There’s a nutritionist guiding the group to honor our bodies and fuel them with what we intuitively need. For me, that has been two burgers this week. No joke. I had a rough menstrual cycle this month, I think I was craving iron because I rarely ever eat red meat. And I ate two burgers. There. Who cares? So what.

That was the theme of last week led by my friend and co-owner of Evolution Power Yoga Julie Mathers: “So what?” Every time we find ourselves out of balance, try saying, “So what?” And get back to equanimity in the calm of the river, going with the flow, and the banks of chaos and control on either side.

Unfortunately, as I revealed to the group on our call, I failed miserably at that. I am trying to control everything as always and losing control all at the same time.

We are trying to conceive another child – and I want to control the timing because I never wanted to be big and pregnant in the hot summer months ever again, it was awful. For a pitta/Leo/hot natured person, I decided, that my ideal time to be in my third trimester would be winter. So naturally, I am trying to time it perfectly. It’s what I do. Except after two months of trying so far, it’s not working out the way I want it to…yet.

Meanwhile, we unexpectedly came across a little farm estate we started exploring to move to. And then that fell through. And in the same week, my ever-stressful job of producing a monthly regional lifestyle magazine goes to print. Needless to say, last week was rough (did I mention that rough period too?). I was so hormonal and emotional I literally cried twice and I don’t even know why.

Of course, like my Granny will always remind me, someone always has it worse than you and we should be grateful for what we have…and as I got into my new car after an accident that totaled my car last November and I’m still dealing with the stress of the mess it left and the health problems…I heard a story on NPR about a book called “The Gratitude Diaries.” They talked about how people even in the most dire situations, find gratitude. How a woman who tragically lost all three of her children in a car accident found gratitude in her friends that helped her through the most devastating time of her life.

This was the morning after I had a wine-and-junk-food-filled pity party for myself, because on top of the emotional menstrual cycle (which told me I wasn’t pregnant again this month) and losing the hope of the dream property, I was feeling pretty sorry for myself.

But I took a moment to be present with my daughter after picking her up from a hot day at her summer farm camp and honored her request for cool ice cream. As we sat there eating our cool treats, I took her picture and was texting my realtor and a friend that we were having a pity party…and in the middle of my text, a grandma interrupted me and said, “I just have to tell you, your daughter is so beautiful.” She proceeded to tell me to savor these moments because “in a sneeze” her granddaughter was that age and now she’s a sophomore in high school. How she was so blessed to get to spend time with her when she was little while her parents worked. And that I am so blessed to have this beautiful daughter. She was right. So I finished that text with a completely different message.

Later, I slipped back into self pity again, I’m stubborn, so the universe would have to try harder.

My husband called. He sounded a bit shaken. He had been rear ended in his work van on the Capitol Beltway in Harrisburg, but he was okay. I cried with gratitude.

And then I heard the piece on the book on the same topic. And I started to accept, all of these things are happening as they’re supposed to and I just need to let go of control, go with the flow, in the river of calm… And in that space I created between my (almost daily) meditation, I found my answer. Every year I’ve done this program, the meditation has been the hardest component for me (I could do the yoga and the detox, no prob) but this year, I’ve really come to appreciate my meditation practice and the space it creates for possibility, the peace it gives me from stillness. So maybe I’m more “zen” than I give myself credit.

I learned that exploring the idea of a property like the one we looked at opened our hearts and minds to the idea of asking my in-laws to live with us as they look to move to Lancaster to retire. But right now is not the right time, none of us are ready right now…but now we can think about it and plan for it and take our time finding the right place for our family’s next chapter. As for not getting pregnant right away like we did last time, maybe I just need the freedom to drink margaritas on vacation next week! And it led me to a conversation last week with an herbalist about my other health problems after the accident last year.

Yesterday, my daughter and I walked into the library and there was a giant board promoting “The Gratitude Diaries” with post it notes to hang and display what we’re grateful for. My soon-to-be-four-year-old daughter Hazel said, “ice cream.” I am grateful for that ice cream experience we shared with that grandma too. My post it note was simple as well. I am grateful for my joyful daughter and my supporting, funny husband who picks me up when I fall apart and makes me laugh when I take myself too seriously like telling people not to stand behind me when I’m doing crazy fruit fasts with my yoga studio.

So that’s coming up this week. I haven’t figured out yet what my body is telling me to eat or not eat. It won’t be textbook perfect according to Baptiste’s guide, but it will be perfect in its imperfection in this moment, and for that I am grateful. Oh, and did I mention gratitude was one of our themes for the week to focus on? Pretty perfect timing. Well played, life. Well played.

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