Chasing change

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It’s been a while since I’ve posted. I’m feeling listless right now, reflecting on the last couple days and months.

Change is a word that’s been burned into my mind since R shared her closing thoughts about change and MLK a few months ago. Over the last few months, I’ve been chasing change. I took the word change to mean that I need a new job, among other things. I’ve been putting myself out there, interviewing, facing rejection, picking myself up, battling obstacles and self doubt, and going for it again.

So I went for it. Several phone interviews, on-site interviews at two different places, one second round even. And rejection as the result. And inevitable reflection after the rejection. My resume looks pretty good on paper. No gaps. Steady and long tenures with national and global companies. A wide range of experiences that make me a well-rounded marketer. But self-doubt is creeping in. Why no progression to director level? Why not deeper experience in people management and leadership? Why not a higher salary at this stage in my career?

So I was rejected. Twice.

The next obstacle was a nasty cold. My wife caught one, and then I caught one, and it hit me hard. Followed by sinusitis and bronchitis. It took me out of practice for more than two weeks. It also took away my focus and desire to study yoga. I turned to western medicine, and dove into Breaking Bad marathons on Netflix. Practicing asanas, pranayama and meditation were not a natural part of my life when I was sick and recovering. And I learned something my practice. Yoga is not as integrated into my life as I thought it was.

The cold allowed some time for some reflection but also self-doubt, mostly about my career.

Still, I recovered and returned to practice, slowly at first. I’ve had classes at the gym as well as the studio, but feel like I’m not fully back in the groove.

I’ve also picked myself up, and started to interview again. Friday was a doozy. I was invited in for an interview at a small but not quite startup business. I took the Friday afternoon before Memorial Day off for the interview, which was almost certain not to raise any suspicion from my current boss. And the interview was a disaster that ended up with an offer for a voluntary consulting project. I rejected that offer, but felt like I could have yielded a more compelling offer if I performed better in the interview. I felt like an idiot for wasting my time chasing a job with someone else’s startup dream.

I also got into an argument with my wife when I decided to go catch a twilight round of golf at Canal Shores Friday afternoon. My game was hazardous and unfocused, and I lost several balls in the thick grass and brush. When I got home, I over-ate and had three drinks as well. I hadn’t felt that low in a long while.

So I am picking myself up again.

They say the definition of insanity is repeating the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Maybe that should be my takeaway from anonymously applying for jobs. I need to learn to leverage my network if I really want a new job, and have that personal connection. For the weekend at least, I am taking a breather.

I am also wrestling with my relationship with yoga. When I was battling the cold, it was eye opening to me to see how quickly yoga could become a distant part of my life. I know my body needs rest, but I thought the mental part of my practice might be more present during illness. Not so for me at this stage.

I feel like I coming to a crossroads at how deep my practice will be, what philosophy I will follow, and how fully I follow the eight limbs. The question of vegetarianism looms, and makes me question how truly and sincerely I can follow the classical yoga path while still eating meat.

Does yoga make you lazy?

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I’ve been spending the last two months acting like a teenager, fawning about the magic of yoga. And to be sure, it has felt like an overwhelmingly positive experience that I want to continue.

But I’ve also noticed that yoga makes me feel naturally high, blissed out and carefree. Does this mean yoga is making me lazy in other parts of my life?

First, I work hard in my job and feel better equipped to leave work worries at the office. I perceive this to be a good thing. But I’ve also noticed that I have almost zero desire to open up the laptop at home to spend an hour or two digging out of work email, or doing some prep work to get organized for the week ahead. I take this to be more my relationship with my current job than anything else, but still, it’s something that I’ve noticed.

Second, I’ve noticed that my intellectual interests have changed from where they were six or twelve months ago. I used to be a news junkie, devouring the opinion pages of the New York Times and sometimes the Wall Street Journal to hear the opposing viewpoint. I used to watch the cable nighttime news as a ritual, with Chris, Anderson and Rachel informing me and getting me fired up about Washington hypocrisy and partisanship. I used to take pride on being informed and developing my political and news opinions based on facts, and a sense of what’s right. These days, my thirst for news is low, and in that sense I sometimes worry if I am getting intellectually lazy. At the same time, I HAVE been reading and intellectually curious about other things. But my reading has shifted to Elephant Journal, and books on yoga practice.

Finally, I’ve noticed that I might be getting lazy at home. To begin with, I’ve been more calm and relaxed at home. My home is my sanctuary from the office and the rest of the world. But I’ve also been less productive on home projects, less likely to clean the bathroom, less likely to attempt new elaborate recipes in the kitchen, just less active in general. Maybe I’ve been overworked at the office, but maybe the practice has made me so relaxed that I need and appreciate the quiet time doing nothing.

Maybe it’s just due to the brutal winter, but I’m wondering if my practice has also contributed to these changes. Maybe this is all just part of a necessary shift in my life.

But I really should get better about scrubbing that bathtub.

Jai!

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It’s Saturday, and it was a hectic week. Work has been frantic, I had dinner on Wednesday with a development person from my college, and job hunting has cranked up to overdrive.

After several phone interviews over the last few weeks, on Friday I had my first on-site interview in about a year. I didn’t practice asanas on the day of the interview, but I did go through a 20 minute meditation from Elsie’s Yoga Podcast to calm my nerves.

The interview felt like it went quite well, but I had to run right to the office after it, sneaking into a McDonalds bathroom on the way to the office to change into jeans so as not to raise suspicion wearing dress pants and polished shoes to work on a Friday.

Last night I slept like a baby, and did not set the alarm. The extra sleep worked wonders.

Fortunately, I woke with enough time for a cup of coffee, a quick walk with the dog and time to make it to the 10:00 class at Dharma Yoga.

Today’s class was a great one.

The teacher was one I’ve had many times before, and a few weeks ago I was starting to feel like her classes were getting too scripted for me. But today’s class really resonated.

The sequencing was mostly familiar, but the teacher took some breaks during the class to explain some of the postures in-depth. I really enjoy studying, exploring and understanding, and this type of instruction really helps me deepen my practice.

Throughout the course of the class, I also noticed photos of Sri Dharma Mittra in the studio, staring at me with kind, gentle and encouraging eyes.

The asanas felt good. I felt strong in extended side angle and triangle, and continued to work on my shoulder stand. My balance was pretty good through most of the practice.

But the savasana and close of class felt truly inspired, under my teacher’s soulful guidance. Apparently it resonated for other students as well, based on the sniffling I heard at the end.

The whole experience helped me understand the concept of surrender. I put my best forward in the job interview, I wrote an awesome and bold thank you letter to the hiring manager, and I now will surrender to the outcome.

It also made me feel softer and more vulnerable, in a good way. Since I had no breakfast, I went looking for lunch after class. For whatever reason, I did not feel like having anything with meat. Not with the feeling of surrender to the practice that I felt today, not with the image of Sri Dharma starting at me in photos throughout class and still in my mind as I looked for lunch.

Veggie Burrito!

This time, I went for the tofu and Swiss chard burrito from Tomate. Excellent. It was better than the last one I got, because it felt less carb-loaded than the last one. It came with a deep green tomatillo hot sauce that was the perfect accompaniment to the burrito.

Jai!

My deepest thanks to my teachers who have shared their light with me.

And to the burrito cooks of Tomate.

Yes, Dad, I’m doing yoga

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It was a somewhat awkward catch up call with Dad today. We went through the usual updates – I cooked out last night, went to the driving range, weather is finally better, dog is fine and so on.

And then he asked, “so I heard you’re doing yoga, huh?”

Turns out my wife replied to an email from my step-mom earlier today, and she casually mentioned that I was always going to yoga class after work these days.

“Yes, Dad, I’m doing yoga.”

“So how do you like it?”

“It’s fun, Dad, I’m getting into it. Learning to breathe. I think it might help me on the golf course too.”

“So can you put your foot behind your head?”

“No, Dad, I can’t do that yet. Not sure if I can in this lifetime, but that’s OK.”

Then the voice of my step-mom from the background: “ask him if he’s doing the tree pose!”

“Yes, Dad, I’m doing tree pose. Sometimes I fall out, but sometimes I can hold it.”

“Hum. Sounds good.”

“So, how are the French classes going?”

Smoked asanas today

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Today was the perfect day to explore some of the core elements of this blog. My wife and I went out for dinner last night at Trattoria D.O.C., and had some great authentic wood fired Italian style pizza. Mine was the Pizza Rustica, topped with Mozzarella, red onion, mushroom, sun-dried tomato and olives. Vegetarian. I had a glass of Chianti with dinner, and we went home and watched the excellent documentary SOMM – a tale of a group of guys studying to take the staggeringly difficult Master Sommelier exam.

An enjoyable night out, but I ate too much and had a bourbon neat and Manhattan at home as well. I try not to beat myself up, but I should learn to stop at two drinks rather than three.

This morning I was a little slower than normal, but not too bad. The forecast called for warmer weather, but at 9:00 am it was still only 30 degrees or so.

I went to Dharma for a 10:00 class, and sweated out the toxins. We closed class with some alternate nostril pranayama practice. Hopefully it will knock out the last remnants of my sinus and chest congestion.

After today’s practice, I felt that I could learn to practice moderation and have fewer nights like the one I had last night. It wasn’t like I went all-out like I did in the old days, but it was still obviously too indulgent.

But something is changing inside me. I feel like I can and will learn moderation. I feel like it won’t be deprivation, but the new normal. It’s a gradual process, to be sure, but I feel like the awareness of when I’ve strayed from moderation is a gift in itself.

The temperature climbed to 50 today, and the sun was shining. After practicing the asanas and having lunch, I went out to hit some golf balls at the driving range. I was hitting most of my clubs pretty well, and found the practice meditative and relaxing. It reminded me that I should re-read the excellent book Buddha Plays 18, written by my Uncle Eddie. His book brings mindfulness to your golf game, and has helped me learn to enjoy the process and the journey more than the result. I should probably take another look at Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons as well.

This evening I pulled the grill out of the garage, and made some BBQ chicken breasts with spice rub and sauce from Hecky’s. Hard to call it BBQ if it was just fast grilled over gas, but whatever. I was cooking out, and I haven’t done that since the Prime Rib for Christmas Eve.

Dinner was not overindulgent, but it did bring me full circle to the contradiction in my mind and my blog. I want to continue to grow and travel down the mindful path, but I am still drawn to the primal pleasure of cooking meat over fire. I know this is in conflict with ahimsa. Perhaps the first step should be to walk away from mindless meat consumption like the Jimmy John’s subs that I tend to eat for lunch during the week.

Before I think of cutting anything out (be it meat, alcohol or leather shoes), my intention is to learn how to practice moderation more effectively.

Breaking out of the rut

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I went to my usual class with R on Monday, and to the studio again on Tuesday and Wednesday. In the back of my mind, I’ve been wondering if I’ve been getting into a rut.

To be sure, I am still challenged in every class I attend, and I always find poses that I can’t grasp yet. Shoulder stand is still a challenge, but I am learning to hold it a bit longer every time that I try it. I am not there with crow yet, but it feels like it’s getting closer. Sometimes I can lift one foot, and then the other one, but I’m still not holding it for more than a second or two.

But beyond the challenge of certain poses, sometimes I feel like there is too much of a script in some classes. When there is too much of a script, I am not as mindful going into each pose, and I am wondering if I am just going through the motions. I think that’s part of the challenge of the practice – to continue to be mindful of even the most routine movements and to be present.

Even if I have been in a rut, I still feel the benefits of the practice outside of the classroom. I feel more calm at work, and yoga has given me new ways to deal with stress and adversity. So maybe this is a new normal, and I’m past the youthful romance of the first few months of practice.

But Wednesday’s class was totally different. It was my first class with the studio owner. She walked our class through half a dozen poses I have never done before, and also gave an entirely new perspective to even the most routine poses like downward facing dog or uttanasana (forgive me if I have missed a sanskrit accent mark or two).

It was a wonderful reminder that there is ALWAYS something new to learn in yoga, and that our journey is never complete. It was a very mellow practice, and inspiring to know that there is so much more to explore on the road ahead. It wrapped up with the students seated in a circle in the dark for a candle meditation. I’m not sure I fully “got it,” but it’s fun to think that I might someday.

She also shared that her guru, Dharma Mittra, would be visiting town in June, and that we should mark our calendars to meet him. Calendar marked.

Today is a day off from class, so I dutifully dropped by Hecky’s to pick up a whole BBQ chicken, sauced. The Spanish red from Montstant was a perfect accompaniment.

Some things may never change.

Coming back to my people

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I returned to the studio this morning, after a week and a half away from yoga class.

We had a sub today, which turned out to be a good thing. I always enjoy hearing a new perspective, and today was no exception.

Class started in with meditation and a light bell, and was taught at a slower pace than the usual Saturday class.

The instructor had some good insight on a new way to enter shoulder stand, which helped me hold it longer than I ever have before. Still not feeling plow, I think because I feel like there is too much weight in my midsection. But a couple months ago, I felt there was too much weight in my midsection for shoulder stand, so plow might be another barrier that I can overcome.

Our teacher took us through pigeon, again with detailed instruction that helped me feel the pose and discover parts that I never have before.

I’m starting to feel, ever so gradually, that these are my people.

Longing for my mat

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During the cleanse weekend, I was recovering from a cold that continued into this week. On top of that, I needed to travel to Boston for work from Wednesday through today.

Realistically, I could have practiced some asanas and breathing in the hotel room the first night, since my co-workers were arriving late and I did not have any commitments for dinner.

That didn’t happen, and I didn’t practice the next day either.

I felt so distant from Yoga, breath and mindfulness, but I did notice I felt more relaxed about the conference and social activities than I had in the past.

I arrived back home on by 5:00 and picked up carryout dinner for my wife, who had since caught my cold. A low key evening at home with a Cabo Wabo Margarita and a chicken burrito from Tomate.

I so looked forward to returning to the mat on Saturday.

Juicing day 2

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I woke up feeling a little bit better, and decided to try to continue under one condition. Caffeine would be allowed this time.

I downed a couple cups of black coffee, and then had my green juice. I decided to replace some of my Maroon Five with some green juice reserved for day three. Late in the day, I tried some Maroon Five and only could finish half of it.

I survived the day, but when my wife brought home left over pizza at 9:00 pm (with pepperoni, no less), I caved in and had a couple slices. By this point, I decided to get back go normal food the next day at work.

At the end of the day, I was six pounds lighter.

Breath was one thing that helped me get through the day, and I also used some light home yoga and meditation practice to cultivate strength and focus.

Not sure if I would do a juice cleanse again, but I consider what I did to be some type of accomplishment.

Juicing day 1 wrap-up

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I had a hard time swallowing the second Maroon Five, and could not get past the overpowering dirt taste. I started to get a headache, probably due to caffeine withdrawal more than anything else.

The dessert of cashew milk was really good, and a nice nightcap. I survived the first day in one piece. When I was taking my dog out around ten, I started feeling nauseous.

A half hour later, I puked. Not too much, because there wasn’t much in there.

I slept without too much trouble, resolving to be done with this thing and going back to solid food today.