Lessons From Yoga: Dispersed Progress or Peripheral Progress

June 30th, 2014

Dispersed progress. That’s what I’m gonna call this lesson. Basically it’s the idea that progress in one area begets progress in other areas. Usually in a peripheral area – an area near or similar to the other area.

A few months ago I tried to do crow pose. It’s a pretty intense arm balance and requires a good deal of core strength to hold. I got in to it but my nose was only an inch off the mat and I couldn’t hold it. I fell. Immediately.

Then I didn’t try crow for months. Instead I started doing yoga more regularly in general. At first it was maybe once a week. Slowly it became daily, as desire grew threw play.

A few weeks ago I came back to crow again. This time I could do it and hold it. Not for long, mind you, but it happened. I took a picture to commemorate and fell out of the pose just after the shutter snapped.

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This week I returned to crow and I held it. Not for a short time, but for eight full slow breathes. It was controlled. I lifted into it with control and I came out of it with control. There was no falling, no stumbling, no shaking. Just strength and freedom.

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It got me thinking.

It made me think about how change happens in our lives, how growth comes, how we learn and develop new skills.

I could have learned crow pose by doing crow pose every day. It would have worked. Eventually I would have gained the strength needed in exactly the right muscles. But I think it might have taken longer that way.

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If I had done that, if I had dug in and worked on crow pose specifically, I would have ended up feeling discouraged. Each time I fell out of the pose my psyche would take a little beating. Eventually I might give up and decide I am just not capable of mastering crow.

It made me think about what other areas of my life I might need to approach this way.

There are plenty of things I want to learn and master in my life. Perhaps I need to learn them by focusing on other areas instead of directly on the desired skill or trait.

How about this for an example.

How many times have I thought, “I don’t want to yell at my kids anymore?” And then turned around to find that my child has just purposefully dumped two buckets of bath water on the bathroom floor after I just told him to keep the water in the tub. My voice raises. “I just told you not to do that?! What were you thinking?!”

I calm down, apologize for yelling, make my kid help clean up the water, and resolve to not yell again. Then my child throws a toy at his baby sister. The momma bear in me comes out. I’m pretty sure literal steam is rising out of me ears like one of those angry cartoons. I yell again.

I don’t know about you, but when I resolve not to yell it doesn’t really do any good. Focusing on learning patience with my children doesn’t result in developing patience with them.

I’ve noticed something lately though, I’m not yelling at my children as much. In fact I almost never yell lately.

This change happened not when I was trying to stop yelling and working on learning patience. It happened when I was focusing on other things. Particularly lately I’ve been thinking a lot about forgiveness and grace. I’ve been focusing a lot on surrender and acceptance of whatever God sends.

This is dispersed progress. Focusing on one area resulted in progress and growth in another area.

I was also thinking about how this concept might apply to another more tangible skill I want to improve.

Many people say that the best way to improve as a writer is to write. I don’t doubt that advice, but I’m starting to think it’s only one method and perhaps there’s another (dare I say better?) way.

Perhaps like learning crow, or growing in patience with my children, I need to apply some dispersed progress to my writing life.

I have a hypothesis that focusing on other things besides writing – for example reading, observing people, involving myself in relationships, living life fully and presently, etc – might do just as much (if not more) to improve my writing than just working on writing regularly.

Dispersed progress results in well rounded progress. It results in progress that is almost surprising in how it sneaks up on you. It results in a road to progress that is encouraging instead of discouraging.

Next time I feel stuck as I try to learn something or try to enact some change in my life I want to remember to step back and work on something else. Step back and find some peripheral area on which to focus.

What do you think? Are there areas of your life were you’ve seen dispersed progress at work? Areas were working on one thing resulted in learning another?

Rejoicing in the journey,
Bethany

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Confession of a Wounding Tongue

June 22nd, 2014

I am capable of great cruelty. I have spoken in anger, in fear, in judgement. I have spoken words that have cut and wounded others.

I have ignored. I have burned bridges. I have broken friendships that could never be fully mended.

I have justified my cruelty. Sometimes saying it was “right” or necessary, even saying it was guided by God.

I have been as a crusader. Blinded to the truth of God’s grace.

I have returned love with harsh words. Wounding words. I have returned kindness with burning silence. I have snubbed those who have pursued. I have judged harshly. I have bullied. I have yelled. I have turned my back on friends. I have spoken with the intention of wounding, and I have withheld with the intention of hurting.

From the overflow of a fractured heart, a fearful heart, a wounded human heart, a walled-off and hardened heart, I have acted rashly, aggressively, regrettably.

I like to justify and think that these things happened in my youth, in my immaturity. And although there were more severe episodes of this in my past, the truth is it continues.

I have used my words and my silences in destructive ways and in this I continue. My tongue is far from tame.

This is my confession. This is my apology.

To those I have wronged, forgive me.
To those I have made cry, forgive me.
To those I have called out harshly, forgive me.
To those I have ignored, forgive me.
To those I have given the silent treatment, forgive me.
To those I have wounded, hurt, and shown no grace, forgive me.

There have been apologies in the past and yet still I carry regret for these actions, pain for the pain I have caused others, hurt for the lack of grace I have extended, the lack of love I have shown.

Lord, I cannot change the past. I cannot change my tongue or my hearts propensity to forget how my words or actions might effect others. I cannot change anything on my own. But I can ask, I can beg, that you would take my heart and continue to teach it more and more grace. More grace, Lord. More and more Grace.

Rejoicing in the journey,
Bethany

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Reason to Raise Our Glasses High

June 20th, 2014

Tomorrow is the first day of summer (although summer started a long time ago here in the desert). In honor of the day I wanted to share a refreshing drink that my Aunt Terri and I made up when she came to visit me last summer.

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As many of you know last summer was filled with heart ache and fear for me. My husband had just been diagnosed with stage four cancer. We were told he would only have a few months to live. At the same time we were still settling into my daughter’s cerebral palsy diagnosis. It was a rough season. But we were loved well by many, many, people through it.

One of those people was my aunt Terri. She came and spent a week with us in August and while she was here she did dishes, made meals, played with my kids, and even took Sage over night for a night so I could sleep. That was the first time in four years that I slept without a child in or on me and it was amazing!

She and I had long talks about life, love, writing and creativity. We watched romantic chic flicks and laughed. And we made up this cocktail, which we enjoyed while listening to spoken word poetry on youtube.

Hope you enjoy this drink, as I did, with a friend or family member who is also a kindred spirit.

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Aunt Terri’s Grapefruit and Honey Tonic

  • 1 generous teaspoon raw honey
  • 5-10 drops (depending on your taste) Cayenne tincture (I one made by my friend, but I’m sure you could buy some somewhere – you could also probably substitute a sprinkle of cayenne powder instead)
  • 1 and 1/2 shot Hendricks Gin
  • 10-15 drops Digestive Bitters (I love this one from Herban Wellness)
  • 1 slice of Cucumber (optional)
  • Grapefruit juice (the first time I made it with store bought juice, the second with fresh squeezed – I loved the fresh squeezed, but it was a little less sweet)
  • Tonic water

Add honey, Cayenne tincture, Gin, and digestive bitters to a cocktail glass. Fill the glass half way full with grapefruit juice and fill the rest with tonic water. Add ice. Enjoy.

Note: The honey doesn’t dissolve well in cold beverages, but personally I sort of liked that the honey sunk to the bottom of this drink and absorbed the flavors from the gin, bitters and cayenne. I loved dipping my spoon into the bottom of the drink and pulling up a bit of honey. And enjoyed getting to the last sip and discovering the thick syrupy goodness.

This summer I plan on enjoying this cocktail in a completely different season than last year. I will be sipping this while continuing to celebrate Bryan’s miraculous recovery.

This past month Bryan’s scans showed that almost all of his tumors (they estimate/guess that there had been about 400 of them to start) had shrunk by 90%. There are still two in his stomach that aren’t shrinking as quickly, but nothing is growing and his body is responding really well to the treatment that he went through in December.

We have much we are grateful for this summer and so much that causes us to raise our glasses in celebration.

Rejoicing in the journey, Bethany

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How to Make Homemade Vegetable Broth Without Spending ANY Extra Money

June 16th, 2014

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I titled this post “How to Make Homemade Vegetable Broth Without Spending ANY Extra Money”, but I could just as easily have titled it “How to Make Homemade Vegetable Broth without Spending Any Extra TIME”. This trick is that easy! Seriously!

I have been enjoying this method for making vegetable broth so much that I just had to share it.

All you need is a gallon size freezer bag – you know the zip lock type that are so often used for freezer meals. Now label it with the date, so that you have a general idea of when you started. Next stick it in the freezer. Yes, I know it’s empty, but this way it’s ready to go and just waiting there for you.

Next time you cut up vegetables for breakfast, lunch, dinner, a snack, etc, bring the bag out of the freezer. Now take all those scraps (you know the skin from the onion, and the ends of the carrots, the green bitter tops of the leek, and the bottom of the mushrooms, the stems left over after you pick all the cilantro leafs off, etc), and instead of putting them in the trash or even the compost, throw them into your labeled freezer bag and stick it back in the freezer.

Repeat.

Every time you cut up vegetables take all those odds and ends and stick them in your freezer bag.

Once the bag is full throw it in the crock pot, cover the vegetables with water and turn it on low for the whole day (or over night, or for a whole 24 hours). Strain the vegetables out and store your broth. If you are into canning, go ahead and can it so that it lasts a long while. Or freeze it. Or just use it right away to make soup, sauce, or some other lovely goodness.

If you want the broth to have a deeper richer flavor wait till you have two full gallon size bags of vegetable kitchen scraps and use that.

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How often you cook with vegetables will determine how quickly you are able to fill a bag with scraps, but since you store the scraps in the freezer you don’t need to worry so much if it takes a while – none of the produce should go bad before 3 months (this is why you label the bag, just in case).

Well, that’s it. Just like I promised, no extra money was spent in the making of this broth. And barely any extra time either. That’s my kind of kitchen tip.

Rejoicing in the journey,
Bethany

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Embracing Playfulness in Yoga and in Life

June 13th, 2014

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My yoga practice has been coming alive again lately. It’s as if helium was blown into a limp balloon, making it sway and dance in the wind once more.

It’s not the structured and serious practice of years past. It’s different. More playful.

Before I had kids, and especially while I was in the midst of my yoga teacher training, it was not uncommon for me to spend an hour or more doing yoga every day. My sessions were uninterrupted. They were meditative and prayerful. They were planned. I would often work diligently to add new, more difficult, poses to my skill set. And I always ended with a long time spent in corpse pose. I took it all very seriously.

Then kids came along. Daily practice flew out the window. Weekly practice became frustrating, often interrupted, and before long it was laid aside as well. My practice became sporadic at best.

There were short seasons after kids, when I would attempt to teach classes to friends and family. But even that was not enough to inspire me to get my own practice back.

It was like I didn’t know how to do yoga unless the environment was perfect. I wanted the quiet contemplation of my old practice and when I didn’t get it I grew frustrated. Often deciding that not practicing was better than frustration, my mat sat rolled in the corner, untouched.

Until recently.

There’s beginning to be a new freedom in my practice and in my heart. An ability to enter in and out of poses fluidly within my daily responsibilities. A willingness to start even if it means not finishing all that I intended when I began. An ability to laugh when I fall out of a pose and move smiling right on to the next one. An acceptance, an ability to bend yoga to fit my body and my life instead of trying to fit my body and my life into some previously held ideal.

I am embracing playfulness in my practice.

I know my body well enough now. I know enough about human anatomy. I know the boundaries and the rules enough to bend and play with them.

I don’t have to work through poses in the perfect order. I don’t have to do thirty minutes or more. I can spend 10 minutes playing with sun salutations and walk away from the mat to color with my kids.

I don’t have to do poses exactly as I’ve always done them or seen them done. I can adjust, adapt, modify, twist. I can shift the position of my arms and feel how that small change shifts my whole body.

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As I’ve begun to play in, and with, my practice something has happened in my soul. I’ve touched desire.

My practice now flows out of playful desire. Not guilt. Not requirement. Not living up to a goal. Not wanting my body to look a certain way. Not wanting to live up to some ideal self image.

Just desire. Plan and simple.

It makes me wonder what other areas of my life could I infuse with more fluid playfulness?

In the past I approached my yoga thinking that if I didn’t have enough time to do it right, if I didn’t have the ideal setting to do it the way I had done it before, then I couldn’t do it at all. That was a lie. One I know I tell myself in other areas of my life as well.

So here’s to accepting where you are, instead of waiting for the perfect timing and ideal setting.
Here’s to dipping your toes in, even if you can’t dive into the deep end right now.
Here’s to doing just a little wherever you are.
Here’s to bending rules and creating the fluidity needed to fit things into your own unique life.
Here’s to falling and getting back up.
Here’s to playing.
And playing again.
Here’s to finding the path to desire.

Rejoicing in the journey,
Bethany

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