"Promise me you'll always remember: You're braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think." A.A. Milne

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Embracing Winter

I have never liked winter. Actually, I have actively despised it. It comes within a hairsbreadth of the H word for me. (That word is hate. A word I feel should never, ever be said lightly). My body aches and I have a problem staying warm. Throw in a delightful seasonal bout of SAD and wow, I just don't like it.

But lately, I have really been thinking about cycles. There are so many cycles affecting our lives, isn't there? Whether you are a man or a woman, I believe we have monthly cycles of high and low energy. The moon cycle affects the tides so I tend to believe it affects us as well. There is the cycle of life, the cycle of parenting, cycles cycles everywhere. There is a reason for these patterns. If we learn to key into them and adhere to them, we can find harmony. When we flow with them rather than resist them, we find peace.

So the cycle of seasons is a pretty dominant one. Now I adore the other three seasons. I really do. I can find beauty and reason in each of them. I joyfully celebrate their unique qualities. But oh, the cold, gray season of winter. What can it possibly be good for?????

Well, one thing it is good for is a very big lesson for me. Many years ago I stepped out of the rat race. I no longer glorify busy. Instead, I name it for the soul destroyer and precious time waster it is. I refuse to be yolked to it any longer. Even without busy, I am an active person. I am a doer. Yoga and meditation is slowly teaching me to be more of a be-er. It is hard for me but the rewards are great. I have come to the opinion winter may provide some of the biggest rewards of all.

Now this may be fully obvious to many of you but I was seriously astounded when I cobbled together the thoughts that perhaps, just perhaps, winter is a time to significantly slow down. Reverse those engines and reside in be-er mode for most of the time. What if winter is a time to rest??? fully rejuvenate??? dream new dreams taking this adventure of life down wild and wonderful paths???

Well, I think that is just what winter is and I am committing wholeheartedly. I have brought projects and new endeavors to a screeching halt. They are always such a fight to get done when my energy is low. Spring will come and if I am especially well rested, the will almost accomplish themselves. I am taking this time to curl up with a good book and my babies. We snuggle on the couch and laugh together. My daughter is such a deep thinker. These warm times wrapped up with a blanket is giving her the space to open her heart and talk to me about things so well thought and beautiful it takes my breath away.

I am doing maintenance to keep my seasonal depression away. Vitamin D supplements along with a daily vitamin helps. Rich, warming foods delight my senses and bring joy. I maintain a 3x a week workout schedule. I have no desire to increase or improve, just keep what I have.

I am still struggling with some aspects of winter but really, that is my ego, my desire to be in control. This time is teaching me to let go of even more control and submit to the whims of the seasonal cycle. It is a hard lesson for me but I think in the end it will prove to be one of the most wondrous.

Stay warm my friends

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Managing Depression

This is my story. This is as authentic and vulnerable as I can probably get online. I am not writing this to tell anyone how they should do it. Nope, this is how I did it and continue to do it. If there is nothing here for you then please walk away from it and know I send you all love and peace. If something here helps you, that is wonderful.

My entire life has been an exercise in dealing with mind numbing, soul destroying clinical depression.  From the time I was very young I felt different from everyone else. I felt things deeper. I couldn't let things go. I often saw life as a bleak, dark, despairing place. I managed to hide it from most everyone but beneath my facade a pit of turmoil and heartache lurked. For years I suffered from depression.

Everything came to a head in my mid 20's. I honestly couldn't take it anymore. I was having waking dreams of killing myself. My life was spun out of control. I made horrible decisions. I am somewhat surprised I made it out of the consequences of some of those decisions alive. It was bad. I knew if I kept on the path I was going to die and soon. I wanted to live. I checked myself into a mental ward. It was the hardest decision I ever made.

That was a turning point. It was in that secured facility I discovered a glimmer of hope. I realized in a rather hazy, nebulous manner I could have control over my life. I could take action in this war with depression. It was very vague at that point but it was there.

The next two years was the beginning of the climb out of that cliched pit of despair. I took anti-depressants. I was beyond lucky I found a psychiatrist who was rather different from the norm. He believed not everyone who used anti-depressants had to be on them forever. Instead he told me I could use  them as a stop gap measure, a calming agent that would allow me to learn coping skills and behavior. It would also help me have the strength to face my stuff.

Oh my friends, there was stuff to face and it sucked. It was so hard. It was uncomfortable. I took me to places of terror and fear, shame and embarrassment. Many times I said, "This is too hard!! I can't do this." But each time, sometimes after many months even over a year, I came back and got back to work. I did not want to be at the mercy of this condition. Cognitive Behavior Therapy turned out to be the best thing ever. Imagine, I who had been at the mercy of my horrific thoughts could learn and train my mind to actually choose the thoughts I want to have. I didn't have to obsessively  worry and be upset. I could learn to choose to let it go. Amazing.

The years following were hard work. I was no longer suffering from depression. I was now struggling with depression. I had a modicum of control. Don't get me wrong, in those early years control was easily wrested from my hands but it was there. I was learning and growing.

Through years of practice, falling down, and starting over I have finally come to the place that I am now managing my depression. I know my triggers. I know when I have to batten down the hatches and get back to basics. My husband has been taught the signs that mean he needs to intervene. But for right now, for many years now, I have managed. I have maintained during job losses, the tragic loss of my brother and the upheaval it caused in my family, child birth, a husband travelling all the time with two babies, in short, life.

These are the keys I have found enable me to manage. I follow these with devotion and diligence. If I don't, I know the chance is extremely high I will spiral and I do not want to live like that ever again.

1. Food- I cannot stress how much what we eat affects us. I eat a wholefood vegan diet. I think the most important part is whole food but the vegan is really important to me as well. I eat very little sugar. What do I do for holidays, parties, etc? Well, I pretty much abstain because a "treat" isn't worth starting the habit that can lead down that road.

2. Exercise- Endorphins are your friend. I run 3x a week and do strength training 3x a week. These practices keep the daily stresses swept away.

3. Yoga- I have a daily yoga practice. It has been life changing. It has taken me to a whole new level of peace.

4. Meditation- This practice both clears my mind and helps me access whatever "stuff" I need to deal with. Stuff happens. It is life. Learn to deal with it quickly and efficiently and don't let it fester.

5. Sleep- I get 8-9 hours of sleep at night. I don't watch much tv and yes, I miss out on things but it is not worth sacrificing this integral component.

6. Toxicity- I refuse to deal with toxic people. I flat out refuse. This doesn't mean I turn away the dear friend who is having problems, not at all. But if you are a gossip, a chronic complainer, or any other kind of energy vampire, I have no room for you in my life.

7. I say no a lot. I put me and my immediate family first. I am not responsible for other people's feelings or emotions. I strive to live my life in a loving and compassionate manner but if you are angry because I won't do or act how you want, then that is your problem. This one actually gives me the energy to do more for others in the end.

I think that is about it. The holidays are here and that can lead to extra problems with depression.  This is my story. I reclaimed my life. It was hard and messy and I do not regret a single step. May harmony and peace find you my friends.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Lessons and Nurturing

One of the most important lessons I have been learning is how few things actually matter to me. Some time back I began to simplify my life. This manifested in a physical way as we started the process of purging our home. It has been reflected in a less tangible way through cutting back on commitments, people who are rather toxic to our family, and most importantly, a shift in perspective and priorities. Recently, these particular areas have been streamlined even further.

I find I now have two main areas of focus. The first is to take care of and love those people I hold most dear. This includes myself as I am one of the people I hold most dear. The second is to live in peace. I am finding not much else matters to me beyond these two priorities.

The first is rather broad. it extends past the obvious to keeping house (in a loose way), protecting the environment for my children's future, etc. The second one is what I have really been focusing on lately. Living in peace. I want to live in peace. What does that mean?

Ultimately for me the meaning is coming to fruition by much less confrontation. Truly, I despise confrontation. I am actually quite good at it. I can stay very focused and have great mental clarity. I can center in the moment and not be flustered. Nonetheless, I truly despise it. It leaves me feeling grimy and less than what I should be.

The practical outcome of living a less confrontational life is just letting so much more go. I honestly believe this is the best way.If you really think about it, you probably aren't going to change someone's mind on something in confrontation mode. People have strong views on organic food, war, public breast feeding, vaccines, health, really this list could go on and on. You can fuss, fight, argue and debate. In the end most people will still hold the same views and your souls will be a little more tattered. There is no purpose. If you really believe something, just live it out in your life daily. Trust me, people will notice and they will ask you questions not to fight but to learn. It is in that moment you can change minds and change the world in at least a small way.

I will still deal with confrontation if something threatens my first focus. You aren't going to mess with my kids. You aren't going to bully my best friend. You will not hurt my husband. There are times to call up the fiery dragon sleeping within all of us. We should still remain kind and compassionate. We can take care of our own and be loving and firm.

I went to an amazing yoga workshop with Thomas Fortel yesterday. He said, "Sometimes you need to be the warrior and sometimes you need to be the healer." The idea just struck me as real truth. I think most of the time we would benefit, as would the world, if we chose to be a healer.

That brings me to the nurturing part of this post. I have been going to this workshop each winter for 3 years now. Yoga is such a micro-movement practice for me. My progress is so slow, I don't see it from day to day. Even though it is slow, it is steady. Each day I progress a little more. These yearly workshops serve as bench marks for my progress. It is amazing to see the change from year to year.

Yesterday I did indeed see that I am moving into each asana with more ease and strength. That is wonderful but for me my progress in other areas matters more. Pranayama breathing used to be so hard for me. It honestly gave me a headache. Yesterday our breathing exercises filled me with energy and rest at the same time. It was amazing. However, the most important thing was I am letting go of ego. This letting go will be a lifetime of practice but yesterday, I took a couple of baby steps in the direction. My performance mattered much less. Just being there. Just learning. Just soaking in the energy from the room of yoga students was far more important. It was powerful.

Many people thing a three hour yoga session must result in a very zen state. It does but what you don't realize is that deep of practice can actually bring up some more problematic feelings. It is okay. They need to come out so you can be free of them. But it can be unsettling.

So today we are home.I am cleaning and tidying the house because it gives me great joy. I may bake cookies with the kids again because it brings us great joy and much laughter. I am not going around people. My soul is just a little worn thin which means my empathetic nature will be open and raw. The lack of boundaries would be harmful for me. Today I am nurturing myself. I am taking care of what needs to be taken care of. I am happy. I am growing. Life is very, very good.