Monday, June 30, 2008

She Was Never Bored

I'm prone to editing. I love to proofread, I like formatting documents on the computer, I love making little videos. And as it turns out, I am constantly editing my life. I try and edit the people in my life, making them a little more this way or that way - trying to click on "align center" and see if I can't get them to straighten out and do things properly.

I'm also always editing myself. I should just work out a little more and then the pudge on my thighs would go away. I should clean my desk more often so things will flow better in the office. I should plan meals so my little family knows a week ahead what's for dinner. I'll put more money into Remi's RESP so there's money when she wants to go to school when she's older. It goes on and on, as you are well aware if you've read my blog at all.

And I was thinking yesterday of how that's just part of my personality. I'm an editor. I have an opinion and a sense of what I think is right and I try and get my external world to line up with my inner vision. Nothing wrong with that. It's just sometimes exhausting to live inside of or be around in the case of people close to me. Things are rarely "finished," because there's always a little more that could be adjusted to make things just perfect, so often, there's this incomplete feeling like I'm not done.

If I consider that that editing thing I do just comes with the territory, I can relax about it. My personality has an opinion and has lots of ideas for how things could be done - in my own life as well as everyone else's around me. So sometimes I stop for a bit and it's quiet and that's okay for a little while. And then it's back to work. I'm always working on something. Some improvement project. As a result, I am never, ever bored.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


I don't have much to say at the moment, but this guy does. A brochure came in the mail today advertising his stuff and I went to his website and checked it out. My friend, Luc, likes him and has heard him speak before. Listening to his stuff sounds familiar, some of it is stuff I say in yoga class! He sounds clear and inspiring and if you have a couple of free minutes you may enjoy hearing some of what he has to say.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Mental Health (for lack of some better words)

As you are aware, I live in a neighbourhood with a steady stream of illegal activity happening 24/7. At times it is entertaining, frustrating, scary, and always thought-provoking. If you know me or have read this blog for some time, you may also know my attempts at dealing with the situation have included calling the cops, doing nothing, writing letters, and offering meditation classes at the shelter.

All of what I've seen has led me to the conclusion that what I'm surrounded by is all mental health related. When I went into the Shepherd's for instance, what I saw was that a lot of the people we call "homeless," actually live at the Shepherd's. They have rooms with keys and furniture. Some of them have family in the area, some don't, but they all seem to be dealing with mental health issues. I don't know if the circumstances caused the mental state or vice versa, but the results are the same.

The petty crime that goes on to get drugs isn't done by people who are highly functioning, well-adjusted adults. Even if they didn't start off with weakened mental health, once becoming addicted to drugs, they are for sure dealing with that now.

It's great that the police are around to help keep things stable, if you can call it that. And I'm sure they have great training, however, what a lot of these people could probably use is some support with their mental health. And I know there are crews of social workers wandering around doing outreach as well - I see them too.

Apparently we used to have more facilities for mental health patients but they were closed some years ago and continue to be reduced. What's happening is people are starting to come to where they can get some help and also be able to self-medicate. They're not alone here and have lots of company. It seems to me that a lot of the people in my neighbourhood are being under-served. If it's true we've reduced the treatment facilities and inpatient wards then it's time to revisit that and offer places for people to go so they can get the help they need. Sure, it would be more pleasant to have people off of the street and my steps, but really it's about taking care of each other.

We are sitting in luxury in our Canadian cities. We drive cars, have jobs or not, eat food flown in from thousands of miles away, and have the kinds of opportunities that our great-grandparents dreamed of for us. We now have the ability and resources to take care of each other. We need to educate ourselves about these issues and deal with them - not just pushing it to the side and hoping somebody else will take care of it.

I was happy to see that the captain of the Ottawa Senators, Daniel Alfredsson, is helping to spread the word about mental health. Check it out.

I've been saying for a while that mental health is society's next "obesity." As a yoga teacher I see more people dealing with mental health issues than anything else. It affects both the young and the old and everyone (and their families) in between.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Living Like I'm 80

I've been working with this idea for a little bit and it kind of hit home this evening. I'll just start by saying that I feel young and energetic. I'm 41 and I feel great, like I can do anything and I have no aches or pains, I'm not on any kind of medication, my doctor says I'm in "excellent health," and really I feel good.

And I expect to get old. I want to get really old. My grandmother is 90, still living on her own, and doing great. My other grandmother died in her 90's. I have a great-grandfather who lived to be 102 and I think another great-grandmother did too. So I figure it might be in the genes and there's a chance I'll see my 80th birthday.

It's from that perspective that I look at my life sometimes and how it's going now. Sometimes I'll catch myself judging my body, for instance, like it's a bit bigger, a little softer and not so much like Madonna's ripped figure. And then I imagine myself as an 80-year old and then I'm proud and satisfied and happy with how I am now. "Enjoy it while you can," is what my 80-year old self tells me.

If I consider myself as an 80 year-old, I want to spend more time with my parents. When I'm 80, there's a pretty good chance that they won't be around anymore. The 80 year-old in me tells me to really savour and enjoy the times with my family because those times are precious and won't be available forever. And I remember one of the last times I saw my other grandmother - I had taken Remi to go and visit her when she was 2. Remi would run around her apartment and my grandmother would say, "I wish I could have some of that (energy)." She was so tired and frail. And I heard a little clip with Doris Lessing who said if you feel like writing don't put it off, do it now while you have the energy. She said she just doesn't feel like it anymore.

I spent a little time with a friend today who's taking the same course with Landmark Education that I just finished back in April and she shared with me that her mother has recently been diagnosed with throat cancer. Her mother has been advised to eat all of the things she loves to eat now and enjoy them. She should also say what she needs to say while she can, because once she starts the treatment she'll be on a liquid diet and may not be able to speak. Wow. I get it.

So rather than rejecting the changes to my body or resisting things in my life or pursuing things that won't matter to me at the end of my life, tonight I'm living from the perspective of doing what I love to do and spending time with the people I love. Because I can!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Metta Meditation

There's a type of meditation that's called "metta meditation," or "loving kindness meditation," and it's one of the styles we practise in the Learn to Meditate workshop I lead. It's really short and basically you imagine different "levels" of people and then send them "loving kindness."

The first level is your guru or spiritual teacher, someone who's above judgment. It could also be nature or a pet as I've found, because there are lots of people in our culture who don't have a Jesus or Buddha or Guru or something like that. You imagine that person smiling and happy and you wish them well.

Then you imagine someone you love. Someone you've known, maybe someone in your family. They can be alive or passed on, it doesn't matter. You see them smiling and happy and you wish them well, send them loving kindness, etc., then let it fade out.

Then you imagine someone you don't know really well. Someone neutral, someone you don't have a lot of attachment to, and then you see them smiling and happy, you wish them well, may they be safe, and let them go.

Then you go on to someone you don't love. It could be someone you don't know but just can't stand, like political leaders, or it could be someone you know and that you normally love but it turns out you've been withholding your love from. Then you see them smiling and happy and do the metta thing.

It's a pretty interesting exercise and I suggest you try it. I'll give you a link to an audio file you can check out.

I've done it lots and something always happens when I do it. One time, the neutral person was a cashier I see at Loeb. I don't know him and he just popped in my head as someone's face I could imagine. After the exercise, I felt so connected to him, it was strange. And the next time I saw him at Loeb I was happy to see him and all smiling - of course he had no idea of what had happened!

Last weekend when I did this exercise the person who I imagined in my last area was a guy who wanders my street asking loudly for money. I find I get irritated around him and frustrated by his continuous interruptions. I put him in that spot and sent him love and good vibes. And wouldn't you know it - he doesn't bother me the same way anymore! I even smile when I see him.

Strange things can happen when you do metta meditation. When you're ready for an internal adventure, check it out.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Different Kinds of Daily Practices

We all have things we do everyday. Some of those things come naturally and easily and some of them don't and we have to try. Like brushing my teeth a few times a day comes naturally but meditating everyday is something I have to work at. And then there are those things that really should be a daily practice and we simply just don't do them. We all have those things.

The thing I was probably supposed to be doing on a daily basis but didn't, is brush my dog. The result is, she's (I mean was) matted and had to be cut down nice and short. I barely recognize her. John asked me over the phone, "is she embarrassed?" and I replied, "no, she's not, but you will be when you walk her."

I didn't sign on to brush a dog ontop of everything else I've got to do. So I didn't do it. We brushed her once in a while but lately we let it go. And the consequences are that the groomer wouldn't do anything but basically shave her. Ooops. Good thing it's hot out and she should probably be cut down short anyways. I'm going to catch her and take a picture of her to show you.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

More Fun

I did it again. I made another silly breathing/pranayama video. Actually, I simply finished the one I started last time. It was a hoot! I'll have to come up with some more. I was listening to Abraham talk about do what makes you feel good, like Joseph Campbell's "follow your bliss" and it just felt good to do.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Meditation - it only works if you do it!

More about meditation today...I led the meditation workshop yesterday and I'm always inspired by doing that. I love who comes and what we do there and the conversations we have...

Someone said yesterday that she had been reading about meditation and hadn't been doing it. I do that all the time! I'll read about something I want to have done and then I don't always do the thing. Reading about yoga is quite different than practising yoga! Studying the teachings of yoga and meditation go hand in hand with practising yoga, but studying is not a replacement for direct experience.

To have a direct experience of meditation, all you need to do is sit still and close your eyes for starters. You could even try it right now. Just close your eyes. Notice your breath. And then open your eyes again. Go ahead, give it a go. Close your eyes, take a breath or two and then open your eyes. You did it! That's all there is to it! You could probably get away with doing that a few times a day at work and no one would even notice! Give it a try :) No one's watching...

Of course there's a bit more that comes along with it and people spend years talking about it and teaching and learning. But that's pretty much it. Sit still, close your eyes, watch your breath and see what happens.

Have fun!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Meditation Works! It Says So on msnbc

Reading the "news" this morning I found this little article. More good reasons to learn to meditate. And it's true that it shouldn't cost a lot to learn. But it's one of those things that we could do on our own all by ourselves but so often we don't. "Company is stronger than willpower," as they say.

Also this weekend, there's a talk given by Prof. Peter Pandimakil at the Rockcliffe Park Community Centre at 3. I'm going. It sounds really interesting - he's sharing his insights about another teacher's work on multi-faith dialogue. Check it out at their website.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Meditation Workshop this Weekend

I'm leading a workshop this weekend in "how to meditate." I don't think I've told many people about it so I have a feeling it will be an intimate gathering. It's at Rama Lotus on Sunday from 11 - 1 and it's $25, which includes a booklet with some of what we're going to do in the class.

Meditating is really easy and really hard at the same time. It's kind of like a lot of things that way. Meditation can be a place to see yourself so quickly because how you are when you meditate is how you are in other areas of your life. And sometimes that isn't a great thing to find out and when you're up for it, it is!

Like sometimes it's not nice to see how we don't want to sit still or we don't want to finish the task of just staying with the breath for 7 whole minutes. And that might remind us of how we don't want to complete any number of projects we're dealing with, including finishing cleaning up the office, for instance. And when we're finding ourselves calm and wonderful, that might remind us that we're calm and wonderful in many other areas including taking walks or folding laundry.

Learning to meditate is a wonderful thing to do, though. Sitting with ourselves for even a few minutes a day or a few minutes a week can help us refresh and renew, connecting with our source. It's a great tool to have in the kit.

Anyways, it's this Sunday. Please come and if you're not coming perhaps you could tell someone else about it who might like to come.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Eye Pillows

Technically, it's still spring, so I figure I can count this as "spring cleaning." I've written about this before, but I didn't actually Finish the Job. So I'm back to work today on decluttering my small space.

I'm staring at my eye pillow project. Some of you may remember my eye pillows. Some of you may even own eye pillows I've made. I have fabric remnants and odd covers and raw materials and, well, I'm not making eye pillows anymore.

Eye pillows came at a time in my life when I was needing a project I could see finished and do independently and completely control myself. It also brought me into contact with other people - I had to find places to sell them so I had to talk to people about them and about selling them and how much they'd go for and all of that. I put myself out there. It was maybe a small way, but it was a way. A path. To where I am now, which is not needing to sell eye pillows anymore.

But I needed to know that I could if I wanted to. It was a fun time, sewing on Saturday nights and Thursday mornings and putting them all in box and dragging them around town, peddling my wares. But now they're cluttering my space rather than being a path to people. So off they go...