Would You Like to Join a Circle of Yoga Friends?

yoga friends

As many of my yogi friends know, I’m working on a project called Yoga Circles, a guide for small groups of yogis who want to meet, talk about yoga philosophy, share the joys and frustrations of the practice, try new things, socialize, and have some fun!

To give you a better idea of what the project is all about, there’s a link here to an excerpt of the book.

If you’re interested in receiving a free preview of the entire manuscript, please contact me. I’m looking for beta readers. All I ask is that you read it and let me know your thoughts. All suggestions are welcome!

Has yoga changed your life? Would you like to write about it? I’m also looking for people who would like to contribute stories of transformation through yoga to be included in the book. If you’re interested, you can download more information below, contact me via Facebook, or email me: maria@wellbeingwriter.net.

CONTRIBUTE A STORY

Thank you! Om shanti.

In Baseball and In Life: Sometimes the Outcome Just Sucks!

CififieldIf you happen to be a New York baseball fan like I am (and not one of those who cheers for that team in the Bronx), you probably had a bit of a broken heart recently when the Mets lost the World Series. I use the term “lost” loosely, because if you know baseball, and if you watched these games, you might consider “gave away” or “blew” more appropriate terms.

It’s Just Baseball

Robin Ventura quoteAnyone who spends the better part of six months cheering on a baseball team with the emotions of a die-hard fan has probably wondered why these emotions are so strong at times. It’s perplexing, isn’t it? You know it’s just a game. You know that your real life will go on whether your team wins or loses. You know you have nothing to do with whether or not they win or lose, and you know there’s big marketing behind the hype and drama that draws you in.

And yet you can’t help the fact that somehow it matters. When your team loses the big games, it stings.

The Yoga of Baseball

If you’re also a yogi like I am, when things like this happen, you immediately try to be all yogic about it. After all, yoga gives us many tools for dealing with disappointment, frustration, and loss—the most obvious and appropriate being the law of non-attachment.

Well, you know what fellow yogi New York sports fans (and everyone else)? It’s okay to forget about that for just a while. Go ahead and be sad—and angry—and disappointed. Just for a while. (And yes, keep your real life in perspective.)

No, it didn’t happen for reason. No, there is nothing to be learned or gained from watching a pitcher pitch the game of his life for 8 innings only to blow it within minutes in the top of the ninth. There’s no life lesson in the fact that your team, which was not expected to make the playoffs much less be in the World Series, had a surprising, fun, and amazing season—and then broke your heart, for a moment, in the end.

It just sucks!

So feel that for a while. Mope, brood, yell. Do whatever you need to do. But just for a while.

Then you can come back and be all yogic about it. If you like, you can try to make sense of it all, because as all baseball fans know, baseball is a lot like life. And as you try to make sense of it all—because baseball is a lot like life—don’t forget to be grateful for the fun, and don’t forget to feel the joy.

Opening Day is only five months away!

Namaste.

Finding Neverland and the Paradox of Growing (Up)

Finding NeverlandThere’s a scene, or more precisely, a musical number, in the play Finding Neverland that captures the paradox of life perfectly—if you believe such things can happen (and the whole point of this play, I think, is to teach us the importance of believing). In the scene, the playwright J.M. Barrie and the boy Peter are singing the song called “When Your Feet Don’t Touch the Ground.”

The play is based on the story of how J.M. Barrie came to write Peter Pan. While it’s not exactly clear how much of the play is factual, the general idea is that Barrie befriended four brothers and their mom in the park while he was trying to come up with a fresh new idea for a play. The children’s father had recently died, and one of the brothers, Peter, has lost his innocence and “grown up too fast.” Barrie, on the other hand, is an adult but refuses to grow up.

In the scene that I think is the play’s defining moment, Barrie is singing about flying above the clouds in order to cope with the pain of life: “When your feet don’t touch the earth, you can’t feel the things that hurt,” he croons. At the same time, the boy insists that his feet need to be kept on the ground and that living in a fantasy world is more or less a trick of the mind that won’t do any good. “With my feet on solid ground, I can face the things that hurt,” young Peter sings.

The fact that the man is singing as if he were a child and the boy as if he were a man is what makes this moment so powerful. But the important message is the paradox and how we must learn to live in it. We can’t dwell on the pain of life, but at the same time, we need to face our challenges. It’s how we grow.

This paradox exists in the lives of most humans. As children, we want to grow up and do our own thing. Eventually, we become adults, and many of us find that we’re no longer able to dream, imagine, or feel the joy of simply being alive that we once had as children. And we think: “I’ve become too serious, too responsible, too much like the person I thought I was supposed to be. This isn’t good.” And perhaps there’s nothing sadder than seeing a child get to this point too soon.

That we need to maintain our ability to dream, believe and fantasize is a powerful and important message, but it can also be a dangerous one if we don’t learn to live in the paradox. The solution to pain and challenge is not to go back to being a child. After all, we’re not meant to be children forever, and moving from childhood to adulthood means we have to let go of some childish things. The problem, though, is that we often let go of too much.

There’s another scene in the play in which the characters are pondering the possibility that they’ve forgotten how to play. Does this mean that they should be playing the way they did as children? If you know adults who refuse to “grow up” in every sense of the word, you know that it’s not really a good thing. Yes, children know how to have fun and dream and be whatever they want to be (at least in their own imaginations), and there is great value in this, but children are also dependent on others and often haven’t learned to be part of a community. We’re children before we’re adults in order to learn how to give back when we come of age. It may not be politically or socially correct to point this out, but there is a downside to being a child.

While we’re not meant to be children forever, I think we are meant to maintain some of our child-like nature—and that’s the paradox. We need to hold on to the escape mechanism of dreams and fantasies and stories, even as we acknowledge that none of these things can solve all of our problems and take away all of the pain and suffering in life. We need to keep some child-like qualities simply because they get us through the harsher realities of being “grown up.” In other words, we need to grow without growing up so much that we completely lose our connection to the magic of being a child.

How to Do More of What You Love Every Day and Still Pay the Bills

having funThere’s a theme that comes up often in yoga classes that goes something like this: Do what you love. It has some variations, and chances are you’ve heard them go something like this as well:

I always suspected that the people who went around saying these things had either already figured out how to do what they love and make money doing it or they were being financially supported in some way!

But I’ve thought about it some more.

Do more of what you love

Today my yoga teacher suggested an activity that was a twist on the usual “to do” list – something another yoga teacher had suggested to her. The task was to make a list of things we enjoy doing and then to be sure that we spent this day (which happened to be a Monday) doing what we want to do.

Ah, if only I had that luxury, I thought. I’d probably go get a pedicure and then pack for a week away at luxury yoga retreat – preferably one that includes learning how to draw or paint. But unfortunately, there are bills to pay. And without getting into details, I, as a responsible adult, have little choice but to make that a priority right now, so…

It seemed more or less obvious that I could not afford the luxury of being sure to have some fun on this particular day.

But wait. Life should be fun, shouldn’t it?

I’m not an advocate of being miserable. I’ve shown that in my life by leaving one or two dead-end jobs and opting out of activities and relationships that don’t help me grow, thrive and live in love. But how do those of us who don’t have the luxury of pretending we don’t need to make a living manage this “do what you love” thing?

Well, it’s simple. If you can’t do what you love every minute of the day, then you need to find a way to love what you do – or at least find a way to not be miserable while you’re doing it.

A while ago, I wrote about this in conjunction with the idea that everything in life is a meditation. I’ve learned to do this with some of the more tedious aspects of my work and my life – like dry technical editing or grocery shopping. (Seriously, next time you go grocery shopping, try to go slowly and really notice the colorful array of fruits and vegetables in the produce section or the mind-boggling number of choices you have if you want a dozen eggs or a container of yogurt!)

Doing more of what we love each day is important, and so is taking care of our responsibilities. So, if you can’t quit your job or ignore a deadline in order to spend the entire day today doing what’s on your “things that I love to do list,” try loving the simple fact that you’re alive and functioning, and make it point to love (or at least like) whatever you need to do.

After all, the very fact that you’re able to do anything is something worth appreciating. And despite the fact that I haven’t been doing something I’m in love with every second of every day, here’s a short list of the things I’ve loved doing in just the last 24 hours:

  • I drank more than one delicious cup of coffee.
  • I ate a yummy breakfast, lunch and dinner.
  • I went to an awesome yoga class.
  • I watched my New York Mets win (again)!
  • I watched a fascinating drama on television.
  • I listened to some of my favorite music.
  • I noticed that the lilies in a bouquet of flowers that I bought a few days ago have bloomed and are gorgeous.
  • I did my “editing meditation.”
  • I wrote this latest entry for my blog.

Poetry, Frost and The Road Not Taken

poetry bookWriting Poetry

This week, I decided to enroll in a poetry writing class. I haven’t done any kind of creative writing in almost ten years, and I’ve written only a handful of poems in my life (all of them when I was in college), so I thought that tapping into this new creative outlet to see if I have any aptitude for it would be fun and challenging. I got the idea in yoga class (of course) when my teacher read some poems at the beginning of a few classes. So, here goes.

There are actually essays to write in this class, and the first was to describe a favorite poet who wrote at least 40 years ago and tell how we imagined that this poet would influence the kinds of poems we will write. Well… I don’t really have a favorite, at least not at the moment, so I focused the essay on the first classic poem that came to mind, one of my favorites: The Road Not Taken, by Robert Frost.

My Essay

I don’t really have a favorite poet, at least not yet. In fact, I haven’t read a lot of poetry attentively in a while, and that’s one of the reasons I’m taking this class. There are a lot of poems that I like, though. One of my favorites is Frost’s “The Road Not Taken.” I suppose I’m not alone in admiring Robert Frost. I like that his poetry reveals that something which at first might seem very simple is really quite profound. The wonderful thing about this particular poem is that there are so many possibilities for the journey it describes. I suspect that a lot of people read it and conclude that taking the road less traveled was the right choice because it led to some wonderful experiences that would not have happened otherwise. But this is not necessarily the case. We aren’t really told what happens to the writer on that road. Reading and absorbing a poem like this opens up a world of ideas about the journey of life. Any one of us may think that we can explain our present circumstances based on a choice, or perhaps a set of choices, that we made in the past. But is this really the case? Can we know with certainty that it’s better to be unique and go against the status quo? We can’t. And yet something inside of us (at least something inside of me) romanticizes the possibilities of travelling in a different direction.

Maybe our fascination with the road less traveled is due to the predictability that we imagine will be the result of following in the footsteps of the majority. Once the path is beaten, so to speak, we are more likely to know where it leads simply because there are more people out there who can tell us what to expect. If you look at life that way, you can reasonably conclude that new discoveries and advances come only when people take risks and choose less traveled roads.

I know I’m not exactly addressing the topic of describing a favorite poet, but I think that the kind of poetry I will write will be somewhat in line with my ideas about Frost’s work. I’m open to finding out, and to this end, I’ve just purchased a book of American poetry so that I can read some of the classics that I haven’t read since college and find out where my poetry tastes lie. I do know that my preference is to say more with fewer words. Perhaps that’s what draws me to poetry in the first place. Words are limiting, but they are still the best tools we have for communicating. Truly artistic poets give great power to few words. That certainly seems to be the case in the Frost poems that I’ve read. It always seem to be the shorter once that speak to me the loudest.

Baseball Has Been Very, Very Good to Me

MariaDadCitifieldI was eight years old when my dad taught me how to read a box score. I was home sick from school and lounging on the sofa bed in the family room (or, as we called it, the “TV room”). With the newspaper between us, Dad explained to me what all the statistics meant and even how to calculate some of them (he was a math teacher, after all). But more to the point in this case, he had grown up a Brooklyn Dodgers fan in the 1940s and 50s. I now know many of the stories about “dem bums.” When the Dodgers left Brooklyn, Dad stopped watching baseball – until his favorite player, Duke Snider, was traded to the New York Mets in 1963. While Duke was only a Met for a year, Dad has remained a fan to this day. I don’t remember the miracle Mets of 1969, but I do remember the Amazing Mets of 1973. Baseball is one of the many ways that my Dad and I have connected over the years. It would later become one of the ways in which my husband and I connected. It’s well-known that baseball is a metaphor for life; at least for the life of a diehard fan.

I went to my first game at Shea Stadium in 1975. My dad, my grandfather and I sat in the upper deck. It was batting helmet day, which means that kids got a plastic replica of that piece of players’ gear as a souvenir. Over the years of my childhood, our whole family would go to at least one game a year – usually “banner day,” which in those days was a real double-header for which you only had to pay one admission price. My mom, who never really understood baseball, came along anyway. She’d pack a picnic cooler with sandwiches and fruit (usually peaches).

Met fan GingerOver the years of my youth, particularly my teenage years, baseball saved me more than once from bouts of existential angst. It always seemed like no matter what was worrying me, nothing could possibly go wrong while there was a baseball game on television. This was even true in the late 1970s, when one of the things that usually did go wrong was that the Mets did not win the game! Still, there was a sense that baseball could bring peace to Earth. There are other memories that I associate with summer and baseball, too. That smell of freshly cut grass, the image of a Rheingold beer can, and attempting to play the game myself with a bunch of friends at the park (I soon traded in my glove for a tennis racket). Even our dog was a Mets fan!

I’ve been teased mercilessly by those other New York baseball fans (you know who you are) over the years. I don’t much care. They’re not the only ones who ever teased me, but at least in this case it was (mostly) good-natured fun. As the fan of a team that goes years without winning, you learn some important life lessons that the winners perhaps don’t learn. For example, it’s not whether you win or lose but how much fun you have along the way that matters.

When I went to college, my parents were thrilled that two of the very first guys I’d met were “Italian Catholic Met fans.” What were the odds? While we were just friends, they are friendships I’ll always remember fondly.

And then came the ’86 Mets. I’ve seen clips of the end of Game 6 – the turning point that led to the World Series win we’d waited for 17 years to see – dozens of times in the decades since, and it never ceases to thrill me. What I learned there is that patience is a virtue and that miracles can happen. Of course, it would be yet another 14 years before I’d see my Mets in a World Series again, but no matter. The time in between was still lots of fun.

In my 30s I developed my own kind of meditation practice (in addition to the more traditional types). To calm my chattering mind, I’d watch a baseball game and tally the action on a scorecard. Focused only on that for a few hours, my worries would disappear, at least for a while.

The man I married was one of “those other” New York fans (despite the fact that he grew up in California). However, there is a happy ending – and a few more lessons – attached to that. For one thing, it taught me tolerance in a whole new way. It also taught me that change for the better is possible. You see, while my husband does not like to admit it, I managed to convert him, and we’ve been to dozens of Mets games together over the years since!

First, though, I had to do the unthinkable. Two weeks after our first date (a visit to the Yogi Berra Museum in Montclair, NJ), he took me to Baltimore to see the Orioles play the Yankees. As if that wasn’t enough to cause my father serious concern, the next season I went to the one place where Dad never thought he’d see me go – yes; I went to Yankee Stadium. (Love makes you do strange things.) For my Mets fan friends who are not aware of this part of my past, I’m sorry you had to find out this way!

Wrigley standsSoon after, though, my husband discovered what I’d known all along. The New York Mets are much more fun to watch! So we set out to see them – or any team – play all over the country. We took a seven hour drive to Pittsburgh when the Mets played there. There were a few trips to Philadelphia, one to Milwaukee, and (my favorite) to Chicago’s Wrigley Field. And in 2006, we took the first of three trips to Florida for my birthday (which just happens to occur during spring training). There’s nothing quite as uplifting as leaving winter behind and watching your team prepare for opening day. We wove stops at baseball stadiums into our Arizona and San Francisco vacations as well, though the Mets were not in town in either place at the time. At one point we’d planned to get to every ballpark in the country. I don’t know if we’ll ever meet that goal, but you know what they say. The journey is more important than the destination.

Now, it may seem at first glance that a post about baseball is out of place on a blog about “wellness and vibrating at higher frequencies.” But if you’re a baseball fan too, you know why it’s here. After decades of watching the game and rooting for my (often underdog) team, it has not gotten old. It has gotten harder though (maybe much like life itself). As a kid, all I saw was a game. Now I see greed, steroids and other unseemly things that are often hard to overlook. But the joy of the game trumps all that. As all fans know, baseball is a lot like life. It can be the best thing in the world if you’re willing to accept its flaws and stay focused on the things that make it great.

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