Tuesday, October 29, 2013

That Hair-on-Fire Moment...

You know that moment? That moment you are faced with a sudden problem that sends your blood pressure soaring and your heart rate rocketing? That moment of panic when life suddenly feels out of control?

Perhaps you experience a vehicle accident. Or maybe your credit card has been stolen. It could also be that moment you get a call from the school. 

I received that call just yesterday. I was fine when the phone rang and was fine while I said 'hello' but as I listened to the message of the speaker on the other end, adrenaline hit my veins and my fight or flight urges went into full effect. My day had flipped upside down just like that. 

At first I wanted to protest. To thrash against the message like a wild horse on a tether. Then I wanted to spew words. To tie my emotions to bow and arrows and shoot them into the receiver. I also wanted to escape. To hang up on the caller and toss my talking device into a nearby trash receptacle. 

Denial. Negative emotions. Avoidance. These all have come into our lives at some point or another after experiencing a shocking event.  These reactions, though, cause suffering. They intensify the perception of the seriousness of the problem; they put us at risk  for making less-than-ideal decisions; and they send out a ripple of negativity that spreads through each person with whom we make contact. 

So, I applied the opposite of each reaction as anecdote to my affliction. First, I calmed my breathing and softened my muscles. I sat firmly in my chair and began to gather facts. When my mind starting attaching possible meaning to those facts, I stopped it from doing so. I just kept coming back to the idea of each fact as having not played itself out, yet, in time. I had no idea how the facts would effect me or those I love, and by only attaching a neutral here-and-now-ness to each one the flames of my fears, my panic didn't not flare. 

Instead of allowing anger to boil up and effect my intentions, I instead chose to detach myself from expectations that I had about the issue. I expected to not get the call. I expected things to be smooth. I wanted things to go as I had planned. My attachment to the expectation really caused my anger to rise. So, I let go. My expectations don't rule the world and I kept saying this in my mind each time I asked myself 'Why?!'

And instead of wanting to escape, I laid out a plan of action. First, I'd do X, then I'd do Y, and if things continued as planned I'd either do Z or start a new plan. 

The next time you have a hair-on-fire moment, try doing the following:
1. Breathe slowly and deeply. 
2. Stay still and relax your muscles. 
3. Detach from expectations and just see the facts as they are now. 
4. Make a plan and also a plan for when your plan falls through. 

I did. And the following things happened:
A. I felt comfortable and secure. 
B. People I interacted with became more comfortable and secure. 
C. The matter was handled with clarity and in an ideal manner. 

It was the most lovely hair-on-fire moment I've ever experienced and I hope you'll try it the next time you feel those same flames of adrenaline. 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Attachment. Aversion. Suffering.

One Legged Upward Bow over Mt. Baker, Anderson Butte, elevation 5420ft, photo taken by Douglas Fitchett


I woke on Hiking Morning with suffering. Having learned the evening prior that I was not going to be able to leave my house as planned for a hike to Park Butte due to unforeseen parenting responsibilities, I woke in a terrible mood. For the third weekend in a row, my plan to get into mountains, where I restore and rejuvenate most enjoyably, was thwarted. Instead, I'd be running my 13 year old ballerina back and forth to her dance classes. I wouldn't be finished till noon...much to late in the day to pull the trigger on an 8 mile, mountain hike. 

So, initially, I threw my arms up in the air and mentally yelled "Fine! Nevermind, then!" 

Attachment. Aversion. Suffering. 

Once I had identified the three above mentioned factors, I asked myself how I could do this day with grace. 

I knew I was attached to mountains. And even more attached to my plan to leave the house at 6am. I knew that I was mad as hell that my plan had fallen through and completely aversive to the change. I knew my resulting emotions were causing suffering. Not only to me but to my family who had to put up with my withdrawal and scowls. 

I chose, right then, after identifying all those deletorious elements that I would move forward with grace. I would not attach to my "plan". 

I made a new plan. I decided to leave when I was able. Noon. To choose a shorter trail that I could complete in the short time between noon and sunset. And I just went with it. 

I arrived at the trail and immediately found patches of snow. At 3800 feet elevation, that's bearable.  Add 1600 feet, though, and we are talking two feet of snow in places. 

Doubt raised. Should I turn back? Should snow stop me? How could I have risen above such challenges as my morning had brought and falter now? I had even beaten the odds that the trail may be closed due to the government shutdown. 

No. "Grace," I told myself. "Just soften your expectations, your attachment to what you think it 'should' be. Continue on with flexibility."

And I did. Even after having to navigate without a visible trail, encountering sleepy & irritated hornets in the tarn field, and battling colder temperatures than I was dressed for, I found myself right where I had intended. 

On the top of a butte, giving Mt. Baker the eyeball, upside down in wheel pose. 

Put your practice to the test. Practice. Off the mat. When you meet resistance, assess your attachments. Remove them. And change course a degree or two. 

You may just end up where you intended. Or like me, in a whole new location, with just as nice of a view.  

Crescent Lunge, Anderson Butte, elevation 5420ft, view of Mt. Baker in the background, photo by Douglas Fitchett

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Drowning Out Negativity

I am not a destroyer of life. 

This is what I knew when I read the following quote:

“From the backstabbing co-worker to the meddling sister-in-law, you are in charge of how you react to the people and events in your life. You can either give negativity power over your life or you can choose happiness instead. Take control and choose to focus on what is important in your life. Those who cannot live fully often become destroyers of life.” ―Anais Nin

Anais had taken my attention at that last line. I am not a destroyer of life. I thought about all the times I may have behaved as such. Under the common stresses of raising three teenagers in the nomadic Navy family lifestyle, I have certainly been guilty of such. The stresses had caused many instances of impatience, grumblings, complaints, and dissatisfactions. 

That was the past, I told myself. Certainly, since finding yoga and meditation, I had risen above all that? 

I took inventory of my present self and was surprised to find I needed to do some cleaning up.

This past week for example, I had given much attention to the past. Living in it. Remembering it. Talking about. Arguing about it. I had spent days in private contemplation about it and had spent more than a few hours giving it verbal power. How much negativity had I sent out into the universe? Oh, how I knew then that I had a been a “destroyer of life” as Nin had described. I had taken precious positive interactions away from my children and created negative space between my husband and myself.

So, I flipped it. Instead of reading the part on negativity and thinking about it and perhaps even feeling shame, I just chose to flip it. I attended, then, to the positive message. She says to choose happiness. To take control. To focus on important matters of life.

And so I did.

I’ve spent the last twenty four hours practicing her suggestion. I focused on now…providing clean food for my family, eating dessert together while talking and laughing. I said yes to my children’s requests for attention. I made phone calls. I texted people. I smiled. Laughed. I talked with my husband about our favorite activities. I made plans with him.

I flooded the evening and morning with happiness…with joy…with life. And by doing so, the negativity…those ripples that ring out for eternity with begrudging energy…were drowned out. No time was left for negative thinking.

Try it. Practice it. And when your falter, just start again. Listen to the good in every minute. Hear it and send it back out with your voice, your eyes, your touch.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Open Your Heart

Wild Thing, photo by Doug Fitchett, Diablo Lake, WA
She said "Rashel. Open your heart," as I practiced my first scorpion pose against the wall. I'd never heard that before, but somehow my body knew exactly what she was referring to. I opened my chest forward and felt my heart bloom like a lotus out into the room. When I did so, I felt a radiant joy flood my body. My back bent further back, I felt the energy of my backbody vibrate with warmth. I also felt happy.

This is how Alexis Britton taught me to open my heart and feel joy pour forth. She is a Master Anusara Yoga instructor who teaches in La Conner, Washington, at Crescent Moon Yoga, and she is a wizard at teaching people how to find love and joy by practicing yoga on, and off, the mat.

Two years laters, I stood atop a rock aside of Diablo Lake and felt the warm sun on my shoulders. I felt joy and was reminded of the opening of the heart. Since I love inversions for their calming effect, I chose to practice Wild Thing there on that rock. Upside down, I could see the glacier-capped mountains and bright blue sky in a whole new perspective. I remembered times when things felt upside and how I now know how to stay strong and supple during those times. I felt my joyously racing heart become slow, the sounds around me became soft, and I opened my chest to the sky. Remembering, there on that rock, upside down, that even when life changes and my perspective is forced into something new, I can open my heart and pour forth love.

Much love to Alexis...for teaching me to open my heart.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Elemental Love Affair

I hiked my way down the red, hard rock trail toward the edge of the water and laid out my yoga mat. I opened my Yoga Journal Magazine to an inspiring page of yoga sequences and took in the fresh salt air. The Straight of Juan de Fuca lay just beyond and offered a plentiful breeze.

I had come to escape the business of my house. My husband was tinkering around with his tools in the garage and there were plenty of chores to do. I, however, wanted to get away for a moment and invest in some centering. My goal was to recharge for the week.

As I begun my practice, moving with slow, exacting changes of movement, I became aware of the sun high above. It glowed against the bright blue sky. Today, I let my hair out of its fastener and let it fly recklessly with the ocean air. I moved from pose to pose, from child to camel and back to child. Again from child to camel and back to child. As I did so, I felt as if there was a connection between myself and the sun and the sky. Breathing in the air, steadily letting if flow out, the undulations of my body warming with the full spectrum of the sun's force.

I spent time with balances, inversions, and some strengthening poses. All were exceptionally delicious out on the edge of the sound, away from busy sun-seeking explorers in their busy cars. Down by the water, against the backdrop of the scintillating sparkles of water, I engaged in my love affair with the elements. My body and them were engaged in balanced in such a way that I didn't want to go.

After a meditation, I climbed down the 20 feet of bluff to dance my toes across the top of the churning water. The kelp stood witness.

After a short conversation with a lone hiker and his goat-climbing-like-child, I rolled up my mat and hiked back up the path barefoot, feeling the warm path below me.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Pure Actions

excerpt from 3rd Verse, Tao Te Ching, photo by Rashel F.

I write inspirational words on a chalkboard that hangs in my dining room. My family doesn't attend any type of fellowship-based gathering together, so the chalkboard is a way for me to share perspectives with them that I believe will help them become self-realized souls.

I know they see the chalkboard and then they see it again. And again. Each time they walk in the room. After a few days, I'll let everyone know that I would like to talk to them about something.

Yes, at this point, my teenagers roll their eyes, but they know I have pure intentions and they sit down to listen. I'll read them the quote and then we'll share our thoughts. Sometimes they don't mesh, but that's okay. We find agreeances, disagreeances, and neutrality in all of our talks. And thats just perfect.

I think it ties in nicely with this quote. 

Coming to our loved ones with non-egocentric objectives is pure, and in that moment, everything falls right into place.