Learning to Slow Down

Sunset

Yoga is an extraordinarily powerful tool. Especially for someone with a hyperactive mind.

When I was 6 I was diagnosed with ADD and given a prescription for Ritalin. I was a little troublemaker with a big imagination; a dangerous combination for any parents. At six I was recommended by my first grade teacher to see a neurologist to examine my behavior and cognition; he had me play with blocks, asked me to touch my nose and keep track of both of my fingers at the same time. Some general cognitive tests. He thought medication would be best considering that it was not a severe case, but fit perfectly into the symptoms of ADD. Plus I struggled with behavior in school.

I took a pill each morning that had positive effects on my behavior for the classroom environment. It made me focus on learning rather than allowing my attention to wander and continually distract other people while they worked, which it often still does. My learning wasn’t affected, but everyone else’s learning. Over the next few years, it became obvious that I was a very disruptive student and did not do well with rules, organization, or authority. Especially unwarranted authority or meaningless rules. I still don’t like any of those things. My mind simply functions at a higher level and processes faster and more creatively with disorganization. Over time, I have come to view this as a creative attribute rather than a defect or disorder.

In high school I began questioning my need to take a pill in the morning. What made me so different from anyone else? My sophomore year I stopped taking it so much. In the summer between my sophomore and junior year I took summer school to get ahead. During summer school my parents and I did some behavioral analysis with one of the teachers; he was a pretty awesome teacher. He noticed significant shifts in my behaviors based on whether I had taken medication or not and would fill out evaluations throughout the days. It was obvious that the medication helped in school. This solidified my need for the medication for the remainder of high school, though now I was in charge. We upped the dosage because I had been taking the same pill since 1st grade and changed drugs to Conserta, a new time release formula that supposedly had superior release mechanisms.

Conserta was awful. Junior year of high school was probably one of the most depressing times in my life. The come-downs were extremely saddening and dark; some of the worst feelings that I have ever felt were on that drug. We tried again with Adderoll and that worked better, though nothing ever seemed as smooth as the Ritalin. I now attribute this to an increased awareness as a result of trying the different drugs, rather than the drugs themselves or Ritalin being superior to the others. This time was definitely an intense time of self-discovery and learning about myself, not to mention the fact that I was 17. It was a rough year; I sprained my ankle badly to take me out of rugby and my social life struggled due to the depressions of the drugs.

Senior year was much smoother; I learned to regulate the new drug, Adderoll. I had a phenomenal second semester of my senior year, in sports, socially, and in the classroom. I got a 3.8, scored in the national rugby championship to come in second in the nation, and developed friendships that remain strong today. Then college happened.

I left Sacramento for the unknown of Spokane, Washington in the eastern portion of the state. I isolated myself at Gonzaga, a Jesuit school. I still have the utmost confidence in the Jesuit education system; those priests are some of the smartest, most spiritual people on the planet. My high school had about 20 of them, but I didn’t meet too many in college, likely due to my aversion to church.

I struggled at first; I was alone when I had such close friends from high school and took plenty of classes off to hang out with new people. But school was ridiculously easy after the great education of Jesuit High and I didn’t have to try too hard. The rugby team was easy-going and kind of competitive; a complete opposition to my high school experience. Adderoll became less a part of my life than ever before.

Freshman year passed without much incident. Sophomore was much of the same, until the second semester when I started taking the core classes for my business major and realized that the business education was not for me. The teachers taught directly from text books and had a few tests a semester; which in my personal opinion becomes useless and forgotten information. I can learn from a text-book by myself; at least I thought this until I didn’t study at all. My grades were awful and my motivation even worse. Then I switched majors.

I had planned to do an international business so that I could travel and see the world all while making millions. It became pretty apparent that this course of study would not work, so I changed to French, which I had planned to minor in. This allowed me to spend one year in Paris, rather than the 5 months of a single semester that my business major would have allowed. My grades in French were not great and the teachers were hesitant to send me over; if I was struggling at Gonzaga, surely I would struggle in Paris. I probably would have if I wasn’t exposed to yoga.

My first days home were a bit boring, but my mom asked one day if I wanted to try yoga; which I had never really heard of and figured it might be a good workout. I took one class with Scott Emerich at East Wind in Roseville and got hooked. That summer, I took classes from Destiny and Ryan and a passion grew inside of me. Meditation, especially physical mediation, was unlike anything I had ever done before. I loved it and that summer did yoga every day. I knew I was leaving the country, but had become so hooked on my practice that I wanted to keep going while I was there. Ryan, who I am eternally grateful to, gave me a few yoga books like the Gita, and recorded classes from Rusty Wells and Bryan Kest.

I took my mat over to Paris and loved every second of France. My best friend in the whole world, Kevin Taya, was there and I hadn’t seen him in a couple of years. Kevin first visited my family as a foreign exchange student when we were sixteen and we were best friends ever since. His family became a second family to me and I spent Christmas, New Year’s, my birthday, and a few other holidays in his quaint and beautiful house in Nandy, about 45 minutes via RER (the public train system) Southeast of Paris.

My first semester, I got a 4.0. I worked hard to learn the language and immerse myself in the culture; it became apparent when my oral French skills improved so dramatically that I got compliments constantly from my teachers when I returned home when I had been previously critiqued (and rightfully so). I got a membership at Bikram Paris for a few months and did my first juice cleanse. I adjusted magnificently to the challenge of a new country, language, culture, and history; I also loved being an American around people from all over the world. But nothing is as expansive for the imagination as a new language in a new city, in my personal opinion.

I think of that year in Paris as the year that I learned who I was, or at least who I have the potential to be. Meditation changed my life, yoga was something I did to equilibriate my body physically and I could tell that the mental benefits were enormous. I did my practice most days. I had even gotten a new drug, Focalin, which was my favorite of all the drugs I had taken so far; the come-down was lighter than Adderoll and the “up” was not as intense. I probably used it a total of 5 times in France; I honestly forgot about it.

All things set aside, I no longer take medication. At all. Yoga taught me that going fast has its consequences; eventually the body will catch up with the mind. I have always been a speed demon in skiing, running, learning, reading, you name it I’ve tried to go fast doing it. Yoga taught me the joys of going slow, of actually enjoying the moments as they come and go instead of always rushing to the next thing. Being in a rush is not how you want to live! Because truthfully, life is happening all around you all the time; when you are solely focused on only one things its easy to miss what is happening around you.

Now I think that I am learning to slow down even more; to allow my mind to fluctuate rather than reacting to sensations or feelings. Now I am be able to observe these peaks and valleys as they happen. This is especially important in emotional intelligence; to sift through situations with intuition and mindfulness rather than bulldozing others to get what you want (something I have done my whole life) or by forcing your own agenda on the situation. Slowing down allows you to actually enjoy the things that you cultivate and create in your life, rather than just moving on to what’s next. Take a deep breath and enjoy the flow; it will only happen once.

Carpe Diem is a concept that I think fits in well here, but lets tweak it a bit to Carpe Omnia. Seize every moment of your limited time.

Progress Where?

progress_evolution

I am a bit confused about something. Where are we all going? Where is the progress of this world’s technology, science, and medicine taking us? Since we have industrialized as a country, it seems that we are all trying to progress towards something. it seems to be some ideal of hope (thanks Obama, you asshole), or space travel to colonize another planet (we keep searching, but our planet is still the best we know of and we are destroying it actively), or even to just push things to the next level. But I am really confused about what that is. Why are we pillaging our planet’s resources for great efficiency and more power? There is no destination besides the one we are already at. These things do not lead us anywhere and certainly do not lead to increased happiness. As a race, we need to reconsider what we value, what we want to protect. We need to make the decision of where we want to go collectively so that we can stop wasting our planet going in circles.

I see a world being built right now that I do not want to be a part of. Climate change is acceptable, endangered species are normal, pollution isn’t a big concern, people work in cubicles, drive square cars, live in square houses with square lawns and driveways and windows, dogs are left in kennels all day or stuck in square houses, genetically modified foods kill our bees, we are a part of a dictatorship that forces us into war, our troops get little support for all that they sacrifice, our veterans are forgotten, and our wars aren’t really wars. Prescription drugs are given to 5 year olds because they can’t sit still in a classroom listening to a boring teacher talk about something boring, teenage girls are constantly told they aren’t good enough and need the newest beauty products, and all the while, we sit in our cubicles, saddened by our depressing jobs, waiting for something to change but knowing that it probably won’t.

Why does it seem like we have no control? I thought the American people were the ones that made the decisions, the free-est most powerful people in the world, right? Looks like we have a pretty messed up system going down and I think its going to get worse. We can’t even choose our presidential candidates, people within the individual parties that are influential and well liked within that party get sponsored by major corporations that pay for their campaign. Then the amount of advertising done during the campaign usually determines who wins. People vote, but their votes for president don’t count. Really, the only thing that matters for them is the local elections, which don’t affect things on a big scale. We are stuck with a shitty system, with shitty people in charge that have had to claw their way to the top through massive amounts of shit to get to the top of the pile.

So we are in a dilema. What do we do, it seems so overwhelmingly messed up and dysfunctional. But we can’t waste energy worrying about it, or we will be asleep before we know it. I think we should stop putting energy into the problems and start putting energy into how you want to live. Grow your own food, supply your own water, build sustainably, cultivate eco-systems instead of farms, stop driving so much, ride a bike, keep buying electric and hybrid cars, support small business instead of Wal-mart, eat organic and avoid Monsanto, but most of all, vote for what you want every day. Support what you believe in, stop giving in, stop compromising your values. Its hard, but we have to do it, or this world will be dead and us with it. This is our home, lets start acting like it.

So stop going places without purpose, start being where you are with purpose. In yoga, there is this idea called “Dharma” and it means purpose, conduct, virtues, laws, values, rights, and “the right way to live”. I think that as a planet, we are out of balance, we are too focused on progress. There is a natural balance between Pragati, and Dharma or progress and purpose in life and we are too far on the pragati side, for no reason. This leads to depression, sickness and overall increased disease in our lives. We have enough progress, the technology available today is simply mind numbingly incredible; as a race, we have to learn how to use it effectively to help fulfill our purpose. So what is the purpose of all of this progress?

I don’t think we have to know the answer. As a race, we are still very young, we understand so little about ourselves. But I do think that the method is just as important as the outcome (if not more important in the majority of cases) and the way we are doing things is not leading to prosperity of the whole. A lot of people mention that if there were no countries, there would be no war, but we have to organize ourselves into groups somehow. If it’s not countries, it’s something else. I don’t think this is the problem, but I do think that we need to start defining ourselves as members of the world, rather than citizens of a country. Lets start to unite, rather than separate and blame every time there is a conflict. If I hear about bombing Iraq one more time, I am going to lose my shit…

I know this is controversial, and a rant, but I was feeling ranty, political, and frustrated this morning. Everyone seems to be going nowhere really fast and I don’t get it. Can we please slow things down and enjoy ourselves? So much work and so little play. Where the hell is everyone going anyways? Lets just hang out together and have a little party…

Responses, comments, criticisms are totally welcome!

The End of my Second Teacher Training

Sunday I finished my second 100 hour teacher training with Ryan Bailey. It was an incredible experience, from start to finish, each day was dynamic and had all kinds of lessons about everything from emotional intelligence, to public speaking skills, to asana practice, anatomy, the hero’s journey, and much more. The name of the training was the Yoga Lab, an idea Ryan had for training people how to teach yoga. The idea was to cover things that aren’t normally taught in teacher trainings, like presentation skills, how to be yourself while teaching, and how to think on your feet. It was more of a life training than a yoga teacher training, and Ryan deserves a ton of credit for what he is creating. Bob Bradley was a part of the training as well and pulled in many of his leadership techniques and skills in lots of situations. The main thing I walked away from the training with is the ability to step into a yoga class and be myself.

This might sound simple, but it’s not. Presenting to people is difficult, having the attention of a group of people is nerve-racking to anyone without experience. Remembering a sequence, keeping calm while inflecting your voice, being present to assist students, and giving personal attention to individuals while controlling the whole group are just a few of the skills you need to be able to bring your self into a yoga room. Ryan’s ability to open us up to being vulnerable and open in our dialogue was incredible; I feel like I am in touch with aspects of myself that I didn’t even know existed. At the end of the training, I told a story that I’ve never told anyone else in my life. The things we learned will stay with me for the rest of my life.

It’s interesting to notice progress. One of the biggest things that we worked on was removing fill words from dialogue. We spent time paying attention and building awareness around words such as: Um, so, like, now, really, and other words that simply fill up space. Silence in a yoga class is important, especially from the teacher’s dialogue. It takes time to let things settle and sink in. This was another huge lesson from the training. I could talk about the individual learnings for hours, but I think the biggest ones were about how to connect with the people who you are teaching. Which is what modern-day yoga is really about.

Every single day was a blast. More fun than I can ever remember having, which is typical with Ryan Bailey. Kyle, Timmy, Jamie, and the rest of the crew also helped to have so much fun the whole time we were there. We did some amazing work to build a team and I think that our entire group is going places. Part of the reason I love working with Ryan is that he is constantly surrounded by amazing people.

Of course there was also some awesome anatomy work, focused on the muscular and skeletal systems, and the philosophy we studied ranged from the Hindu belief systems to the mono-myth. No subject was off-limits and everything was interactive and in close quarters. I would do another in a heartbeat. I am so grateful for being able to have the experience and grow with the people who gave themselves to the training. It was powerful.

I don’t have any future trainings planned, but I will definitely be on the look-out. The more opportunity that I can give myself to grow, the better.

The Death of Dreams (part 2 of 3: Love)

When we are young we idealize about love. Disney helps, but it’s probably also a natural characteristic, that we view things through a lens that says they should be perfect. I was no exception to this rule and still struggle with it. I dream about somebody that might not even exist; I also think sometimes that maybe I am incompatible with most people? But on the other hand, maybe I’m not, I just don’t give myself a fair chance. The truth is that love is nitty-gritty, it’s not always pretty, and sometimes you have to stop worrying about it.

I fell in love in Paris once. When something like that happens you start to expect big things out of life, and out of love. It kind of shifts the lens backwards and refocuses you on a bigger picture. But expectations lead to suffering and confusion so perhaps this is not such a good thing. But I honestly believe it’s not a question of how I act at all, rather a question of how I think. Maybe my own expectations about love that influence my unconscious decisions. It’s also possible a divorce that happened a few years ago, not mine, still has me troubled. But love seems to have changed for me, radically, in the past few years. Since that crazy year in the city of love just over four years ago, everything about the world seems to be different.

I’ve learned to drop my expectations and take it for what is, rather than allowing my imagination to get the better of me. The heart of love is romanticism so I allow the present moment and the sensations of happiness to dictate what I do. I find myself now grounded with others in the real, rather than floating alone amongst ideals. I try to find the beauty in every moment, not that I succeed or expect to. But the quest itself is enough for me.

Love is not about ideals. It is about commitment, reality, and the pursuit of a shared future, hopefully prosperous. I thoroughly enjoy my freedom now that I have sacrificed to create; teaching yoga is truly a joy in my life. But I have a relationship with yoga as well; some days I don’t want to practice or don’t practice when I know I should. Maintaining my relationship is about commitment, going when you don’t want to and being reliable and available. This is how dreams become reality, but reality is truly the death of a dream. This is how they die, in a good way. Now you can enjoy every second of what you have created, for creation to flourish death is an integral player.

Emotions in my Container

Prompt: Unsafe Containers

Which emotion(s) — joy, envy, rage, pity, or something else — do you find to be the hardest to contain?

Sadness has become the hardest emotion for me to contain lately. I am disappointed in my race. Saddened by my neighbors. I find it hard to understand how the world has become so corrupt. So lost.

I think that the answer to this is community, that my lacking of connection with the people around me causes my sadness. I try to be as happy as I can in my life, it is what I consider to be the goal of my life. I want to share this with the people around me and this truly is what makes me happy. The more am I around people, the happier I tend to be.

Recently, I have also become very successful at bringing myself back into happiness. My greatest sadness occurs when I am lost, when I am disappointed in myself, isolated. Productivity and discipline are two ways that I have been defeating sadness and depression and I have found that together they can bring hope back into your life. Concrete goals that have steps and milestones are what keep me motivated every day. Dreams and aspirations became possible again and the world seems like a brand new place.

You are in control of your own happiness.

I think the title is funny because the container refers to my body. My system for experiencing the world. My friend calls his body his avatar, its pretty funny, cause its true. Anyways, take the red pill, try some yoga, and enjoy your time here.