Time Matters

1391767_485484761558997_1565215455_nYoga playtime with the girlies

Did y’all hear that a little snow brought our city to a standstill last month? I was one of the thousands of people that were stuck on the road for most of the day. It took me 7 hours to travel 13 miles. Lucky for me, the gas tank was full, and I had snacks on hand, so it was not as much of an ordeal as it could have been.

Even so, it was pretty stressful to be stuck in the car for hours on end.

My journey began at 1 PM, just after the snow started. By 7 PM, I was still 3 miles from home, and really thirsty, so I stopped to buy water at Walgreens.

The store was empty, but for 3 or 4 people and a single clerk. Shoppers were quick to pick out their items, and hop in the check out line–everybody wanted to get home as soon as possible. As I paid for my water, the man waiting behind me placed a 6 pack of Milwaukee’s Best, and two bottles of red wine on the counter. Another man walked up after him, and they struck up a conversation.

“You’ve got the right idea, buddy! Stocking up for a long day tomorrow.”

It struck me as so funny, because I had been thinking along very different lines. Sitting in the car for hours on end had stiffened up all of my muscles, and my joints ached where I had broken bones many years ago. I was not thinking about getting my drink on at all…instead, I was giddy at the prospect of having an entire day at home to stretch, flow, practice arm balances, and cook healing foods.

As they say, to each his own…

But I wonder what would have happened if I had encouraged my fellow shoppers to think differently about how they spent their snow day. This crazy healthy life has taught me that time is our most valuable asset, and we must spend it wisely. Every day is an opportunity to do better, and to be better. It’s all cumulative.

So, with this in mind, I thought I’d share what we are looking forward to doing, while we are trapped in the house:

1) Learning how to cook healthy foods. The girls are learning to roast veggies, make green juices, sauté fruit, and make spiced nuts. This means our kitchen will be a big fat mess for the next few days, but it’s a price I am willing to pay. Let the dishes pile up…we’ll all be better off for it in the end!

2) Memorizing Sun Saluation B. They girls have been practicing yoga with me for a while, but our practices are more whimsical and silly, than organized. Helping them learn Sun Salutation B will teach them how to wrap structure around their personal practice. And maybe, just maybe, they will even teach their friends! We play dance music to make the experience fun, and crack lots of jokes, so it feels more like a game than a chore.

3) Talking about how yoga philosophy complements our Christian faith. I have been reading snippets of Patnajali’s Yoga Sutras to the girls for the past few weeks, and it’s started some really important conversations about their friendships, their goals, and their personal habits. Concepts like ahimsa (non-harming) help them understand to choose their words and behavior carefully, santosha (contentment) teaches them to be grateful for their blessings, and bramacharya (non-excess) teaches them the importance of everything in moderation.

These are just a few of the crazy, but healthy ways we will spend our icy days at home. I think it’s some of the best things we can do for our kids right now, because, as Andy Stanley recently said, “In the areas that matter most, you can’t make up misspent time.”

Truthfully, part of me wants to park the kids in front of the TV, and curl up in bed with a good book. Mama could use a day off, now and then, too. But I won’t. Because time matters, and those of us in the Deep South have been given the gift of a whole lotta extra time to kill this week…and my crazy healthy family is going to make the best of it.

 

The 6th Discipline of Yoga: Where Meditation Begins


Believe it or not, I was in a sorority when I was in college. I proudly wore the wine and silver blue, and chanted the Pi Beta Phi creed, every monday night at Chapter Dinner:

“Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, if there be any praise, think on these things.”

I didn’t go to church when while I was away at school, so chanting these words from Philippians was the closest I got to scripture during four of the most transformative years of my life. I’d like to say that this weekly reminder to think virtuous thoughts kept me honest, but like most people, I had more than a few ungodly moments in my college days.

Now that I know what I know about dharana, the sixth limb of yoga, I wish had taken these words to heart during those years, and actually spent time contemplating what was virtuous, and what was worthy of praise, and less time losing my soul at mixers and keg parties.

The word dharana means concentration. It is the act of focusing our mind on a word, or a set of words, that we would like to absorb into our soul, in preparation for connecting with God. We practice it in savasana or seated meditation, and it really is as simple as it sounds. We tune out the world around us, and focus our minds on the mantra we have chosen to meditate upon.

Dharana is where meditation begins, and where a lot of confusion arises about whether Christians should practice yoga at all. Yoga arose from Hindu and Buddhist traditions, so it is true that dharana was originally practiced by chanting verses from eastern scriptures. But that was then, and this is now, and other religions have explored yoga as a practice that deepens relationships with God. Personally, I don’t see any reason why dharana cannot be a Christian practice.

Words are just words, and they don’t actually mean anything until we associate a meaning with them. God knows our hearts, and by focusing our mind on His words, such as peace, love, forgiveness, and salvation, we draw closer to Him.

Perhaps more importantly, I believe, with all my heart, that God wants us to practice dharana. He gave us beautiful psalms, and insightful parables, and timeless wisdom. Why wouldn’t He be thrilled if we chose to dedicate time each day to think on these things? They are powerful, and we honor Him by purposefully focusing on His guidance through the fifth limb of yoga, dhrarana.

Namaste,

Amber

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Photo: jimmiescollage.com

Aside

The 5th Discipline Of Yoga: Making Space For My Soul

Sometimes it feels like my brain is broken. Like there is a disconnect between what I know I should do, and actually doing it. And between what I should think, and what I actually think. For example, last night I promised ZiZi that I would wash her school t-shirt, so she could wear it on today’s field trip to the zoo. I left in in the middle of the hallway, so I wouldn’t forget.

I walked around that bright red shirt twenty times before I went to bed, yet I still forgot to wash it. Because my brain is broken. And because my brain is broken, my 8 year old went on a field trip to the zoo in a shirt stained with last week’s peanut butter. And in my broken brain, I am thinking that the chaperones on the field trip, parents that I see all the time, must think that I am the worst mom ever.

I know I they probably don’t think that, and that dirty laundry does not make me a bad mom, but I do think this way sometimes. Thankfully, I have confirmed that I am not the only one with a broken brain, and other people also have these feelings from time to time.

The good news is that there is a remedy for broken brain syndrome.  All we have to do is create a little space between what the world thinks we should be, and who we really are.

This is what the fifth limb (discipline) of yoga, pratyahara, is all about. The word pratyahara is sanskrit for “withdrawal”, and the practice of pratyahara teaches us how to create space between ourselves and our attachments to the relentless chatter of the world. It makes us aware of the stories circulating around us, and opens us to the possibility that some of them are not true.

Pratyahara is difficult to explain, if you have not experienced it before.  It’s more of a belief, and a feeling, than something we do. When we believe that we can quiet our minds, we make it possible to tune out the chatter that separates us from God.

It’s that thing that happens in savasana, when you forget that there are other people in the room. You know that you are physically there, but you are not there. You are floating in space, and it feels free, and nothing else matters besides staying in that space where you are neither here nor there. Just like any other discipline, pratyahara becomes more rewarding, the more frequently we practice it.

Knowing how to create this space between us and the world is especially helpful, as we navigate the messy details of our busy lives. Like when I gave birth to three children in 39 months, and they were all in diapers at the same time. My days were a blur of bottles, music classes, homemade baby food, and Baby Einstein.

I wanted to be the perfect mom, but when you have three tiny humans that are totally dependent on you, it is impossible to be perfect! Somebody was always crying, I was on sensory overload, and my broken brain couldn’t figure out which way was up. People were quick to give me the stink eye if my babies cried at the store, even though I was clearly outnumbered. Strangers gave me breastfeeding advice, as if it was something I couldn’t figure out on my own. It was all so overwhelming, and withdrawal from the chatter was the only way I could begin make sense of the chaos.

When I needed a break, I would strap the girls into whatever bouncy seat or johnny jumper would hold them safely for a few minutes, and stretch on the floor, while they watched Dora. If my husband was home, I would escape to the basement and meditate. And, when I was lucky enough to have a sitter, I would find a yoga class and get my pratyahara on in public.

Little by little, I chose to make space for my soul. I learned to recognize the difference between what was essential, and what was not, and got really good at saying “no” to anything, and anyone, that might make me feel less than enough. I realized that I don’t have to be everything to everyone, and sometimes “no” is the right answer for me, even if it’s not what other people want to hear.

My kids are older now, somehow things are even busier, and my brain feels just as broken as it did when they were babies. I kinda doubt that my brain will every get fully unbroken, at least not as long as we still have kids in the house. But it does find peace when I practice yoga, and it’s good to know that peace will always be there for me, as long as I remember to make space for my soul.

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