A Year of Living Without (or Breaking the Chains of Resistance) November Update

Imagine my shock yesterday when I open an email from zen habits and the title is “Working with the Ebbs and Flows of Your Resistance.” I got the email on November 22. I didn’t read it until yesterday, November 29. Talk about right on time.

My challenge for November was to not eat nor surf the internet while eating. Sometimes I succeeded. More often than not, I did not succeed. I had no idea these were such difficult habits to break. I realized the noise from the TV or internet surfing distracted me from the present moment. Whether I was alone in a silent house, or in the house with my kids, or eating lunch at work, when I was eating, I wasn’t paying attention. I wasn’t enjoying the silence. I wasn’t enjoying the noise my kids make. I wasn’t enjoying my co-workers at lunchtime.

As zen habits Leo Babauta puts it: The resistance is simply our mind not wanting to do something that feels uncomfortable: anything uncertain, difficult, overwhelming, different than our normal way of doing things, awkward, painful, sad, lonely, stressful. It makes sense that we would avoid these kinds of discomfort.

Resistance is natural, just a sensation in the body that is a response to change, discomfort, uncertainty. Our minds have a hard time dealing with these things, because we like routine, comfort, certainty.

Here’s the thing: the resistance isn’t always at a constant, full-on intensity. Resistance ebbs and flows.

During the time resistance is at its peak, my task is to be aware of the resistance. Instead of running from it, I am to see how it feels. Is it pleasant or unpleasant? (Usually unpleasant.) I notice the intensity changes. The goal is to breathe through it. Smile. Dance. Laugh. Play music. Bring lightheartedness to the table.

So I will continue to focus on my food rather than television or the internet. This month, I am not watching TV except to check the weather. Originally, I wasn’t going to watch the news. I can’t avoid it at work as there are televisions everywhere. At home though, no TV for me. My kids will continue to watch it but I won’t watch any of my shows. I’ll update this challenge the first week of January.

Original post: A Year of Living Without

Leo Babauta’s Working with the Ebbs and Flows of Your Resistance.

Up next on Media Wednesdays: Three boards games that make great Christmas gifts. Wednesday, December 4.

Mocha Angels 365. Day 326.

I’ve been listening to an audio book called Being Love- Teachings to Cultivate Awareness and Intimacy by Zen Buddhist Master Thich Nhat Hanh. The audio is about an hour and twelve minutes long. Around the fifty-five minute mark, he talks about self-love.

Hanh says ( I’m paraphrasing and cutting it down a bit), “May I learn to look at myself with the eyes of understanding and love. Many people cannot accept themselves. They are at war with themselves. If we look deeply inside ourselves, we find out the conditions that made ourselves. And then we accept ourselves with our suffering and our happiness at the same time.”

He follows with talking about our relationships with other people, not just intimate relationships: “And we know that to love is to accept ourselves as we are…to accept the other person as she is…as he is…and looking deeply to see how that person was made.”

Hanh shows us how to cultivate the four basic qualities of authentic love: Maitri (lovingkindness), Karuna (compassion), Mudita (joy), and Upeksha (freedom). It’s a very grounded approach to love. It teaches how to sincerely listen to others and love them in a way that is freeing for both people. Being Love is a beautiful book. I’ll be listening to it over and over again.

10 out of 10 Mocha Angels.

Click to listen.

A Short Buddha Story To Calm Your Mind.

I saw this short two-minute video a few weeks ago. It basically says when you are emotionally agitated, straining your brain to figure out a problem, let it go for a while. Chill. Relax. Meditate. Sleep. Practice yoga.

Trust that the answer will come to you, if you allow it do so. I did exactly that at least three times in the past few weeks. I’m sharing the video because the technique really does work.

Trust in love for all your days.

Up next on Media Wednesdays: A review of the Netflix original movie Dolemite is My Name. Wednesday, November 27.

A Year of Living Without (or Breaking the Chains of Resistance)

The adult version of the universal toddler’s mantra “I DON’T WANNA!!!” is “We all gonna die sometime. Therefore, I’m going to enjoy my cigarette/Big Mac-Large Fries-Coke/Big Gulp/ribs/brownies/heroin/KFC Double Down/cocaine/insert-your-vice-here.”

Cravings and addictions, legal and illegal, is avoidance of emotional pain. I’ve said it before, humans run toward pleasure and run away from pain. Since we do such a good job of hurting each other, we all have our wounds. I’ve got mine, and I’ve worked very hard this past year to heal them. I recognize my own resistance to fully giving up habits that no longer serve me. In the spirit of two of my favorite blogs, zen habits and bemorewithless, I will do my own, “year of living without” starting today, November 1, 2019.

I will live without each of these things one per month:

November: Watching TV while eating. I’m reading a lot about mindful eating. I want to slow down and pay attention and appreciate my food. Replacement habit: mindfulness. Update: No internet surfing on my phone while I eat either. This is really tough! November update here: November 30, 2019

December: Watching the news. Death, destruction, and impeachment. I’m so over it. And yet, I keep coming back to it!! CNN.com is like my best friend! AAAAHHH! The exception is that I will watch the morning weather. That’s it. Replacement habit: Good News Network and Good Black News. December update here: January 11, 2020

January 2020: Coffee. I get up at 4:30am every morning. I’ve been using coffee to beat the mid-day slump. I hate it. I love it. Replacement habit: tea.

February: Sugar. The sweet love of my life. She has got to go. Replacement habit: acknowledge my feelings. :::WTF? EYEBALLS POP:::

March: Chicken and Fish. I’d like to stay vegetarian. Some days are better than others. Replacement habit: Vegan/vegetarian meals I like.

April: Processed Foods. Can I really eat only whole foods? Nothing out of bag, jar, or can? As I get closer, I’ll tweak this one a bit. Replacement habit: whole foods.

May: Credit Cards. I’ve been waaaaay better on this one. A sista has come a long way, baby. So good, in fact, two days ago, one of my creditors raised the limit because of my “credit discipline.” I hate debt. I’m a Dave Ramsey fan. My goal is to be debt-free completely. Replacement habit: cash.

June: Buying new things. This is going to be different. Replacement habit: none.

July: Television. Easier to do in the dead of summer. That includes no America’s Got Talent! Crap! Replacement habit: Spend time with my loved ones.

August: Social Media. That means I have to write and schedule all my August posts much earlier. Hmmmm. Replacement habit: Work on my novel.

September: Sitting longer than 30 minutes. At work, that’s not a problem because management took away our chairs. At home, I sit a lot because I’m writing/pay bills/on the internet, etc. Replacement habit: walking and yoga.

October: All of those things, except social media. I gotta post my blog. Why all of those things? In October 2018, I got a concussion. In October 2019, I got super sick. In October 2020, I’m going to slow way down, pay attention, and get through the month healthy and fully intact!

The first update will come on November 30th. Let’s see if I choose to incorporate these changes into my life.

Up Next:#metoo on a million little things, part 2 (ABC). Wednesday, November 6. Part 1 is here: https://mochaangels.com/2019/02/13/metoo-on-a-million-little-things-abc/

Why I Like Bikram Yoga

After all the do’s and don’ts of what to expect in your first Bikram Yoga class in my last post, you may be wondering why I enjoy it. Below are the reasons why:

  • It’s lowering my blood pressure, in a matter of weeks.
  • It forces me to do yoga poses I’d never do on my own.
  • It’s no-impact exercise.
  • It’s super challenging.
  • It’s making my thoughts clearer.
  • It’s increasing my flexibility.
  • It’s decreasing my knee pain.
  • It’s time self-care time. I can focus on myself for 90 minutes.
  • It’s helping me learn to meditate.
  • It’s introducing me to like-minded people.   
  • It’s alleviating my hot flashes. In her book New Menopausal Years: The Wise Woman Way, Susun Weed wrote that the answer to hot flashes was to exercise and sweat more. Prior to Bikram Yoga, I’d cut back to eating minimal chicken and fish, and my hot flashes had downgraded to a “warm breeze,” as I like to call it. Now with the excessive sweating this hot yoga creates, I don’t even have warm breezes. Hot flashes be gone. 🙂
  • It’s inspiring me to stay vegetarian.
  • I go to class two to three times a week because of the multiple benefits. I wouldn’t call a Bikram Yoga class a good time. I’d call it super-physical-self-awareness-yea-I-did-it!-me-time. 🙂

Up Next: A review of “A Little Late with Lilly Singh.” (NBC) (If you’re over the age of 40 and are like, “Who is Lilly Singh?”) read this first: https://mochaangels.com/2019/03/17/lilly-singh-is-making-history/

What to Expect at Your First Bikram Yoga Class

(Long post.)

I recently started taking Bikram Yoga classes. I began my yoga journey in 1999 with Anusara Yoga. I’ve taught yoga since 2000 and I’m trained in Anusara, Kundalini, Children’s, and Pregnancy Yoga. I practice Kundalini, Ashtanga, Iyengar, and Prana Flow Vinyasa (Shiva Rea’s style of yoga). And I love Cole Chance of YogaTX and her own channel on YouTube. We’ve never met, yet her style is very similar to the way I teach. Feminine Vinyasa style is what I call it.

Bikram Yoga is tough as s&^%, challenging, sweaty, difficult…the opposite of my own teaching style, and I LOVE IT!!

Preparation is necessary for your first Bikram Yoga class. My first experience in 2010 was terrible. I simply was not prepared…at all. This post is to educate you before you walk into a Bikram Yoga class. My wish is after that first class you want to continue studying in this tradition.

One to two weeks before your first class

  • Register for your class ahead of time. Most yoga studios offer a Groupon or a special for newcomers. My Bikram Yoga studio offers a $10 for 10 days special. If your studio offers a deal like that, go as many times as you can within that window.
  • Read your studio’s website thoroughly.
  • Go to the official Bikram Yoga website and read it thoroughly as well. https://www.bikramyoga.com/  
  • Get on YouTube to hear about other people’s experiences. You’ll hear the good and the bad. Just remember nothing can replace your own experience.
  • Get familiar with the 26 poses before your first class. The 9-minute video below is a good demonstration. A Bikram Yoga class is 90 minutes long. It consists of 26 poses and 2 breathing exercises. All poses are done twice. Also, you are staring at yourself in the mirror the entire time.
Click to watch the video.

Two days before your first class

  • Start drinking more water than you think you need. Drink until your urine is clear. Also start drinking a sports drink for electrolytes. The room is heated to 105 degrees with 40% humidity. (My dad calls it “Yoga in a Sauna.”) I cannot emphasize enough the importance of drinking water.

The day of your first class

  • Continue to drink more water than you think you need. You will pee a lot. It’s annoying but it will keep you from cramping during class.
  • Stop eating one hour before class. What to eat? I can’t tell you what to eat because everyone is different. My humble suggestion is to eat carbohydrates, i.e., fruit, beans, bread, pasta, potatoes, etc., because they give you energy.

Wardrobe

  • Men: Shorts and a sleeveless t-shirt. Expect to take that shirt off. Also, no cologne.
  • Women: As little as possible. Wear shorts or leggings. Wear a sports bra or bikini top. Wear a sleeveless t-shirt if you must. For all women who don’t want anyone to see their “mom bellies” or “batwings” or cellulite, this is for you: It’s hot as f^%! in that room. Modesty will disappear as sweat pours down your body like rain. Believe that.

Also for women:

  • Don’t wear perfume.
  • Don’t wear makeup. This is not the time to be cute.
  • Don’t wear jewelry.
  • Don’t wear a wig.
  • Don’t get your hair done the day before. It’s a waste of time and money.
  • Pull your hair away from your face.
  • Keep that weave tight.
  • If you are pregnant, talk to your doctor first. As a teacher, I tell all pregnant women to wait until their second trimester to practice any yoga. If you are new to Bikram, I’d err on the side of caution. And let the teacher know that you are pregnant.
  • If you are on your period, it’s safe to attend. Listen to your body’s wisdom.

Why so many “don’ts?” Because this is a challenging moving meditation practice. You are staring at yourself in the mirror to cultivate focus and mindfulness. The less distractions, the better. And did I mention the heat?

Bring to class:

  • A yoga mat.
  • A beach towel or two large bath towels to cover your mat.
  • A hand towel (or two) to wipe the sweat off your face.
  • Water.
  • Sports drink.
  • Eyeglass case if you wear glasses. Your glasses will fall off your face because of the sweat. And sweat will be running into your eyes.
  • A snack (leave it in the car). You will be hungry afterward. If it’s an evening class, I only eat fruit because I’ve already had my dinner. If it’s a day class, I eat fruit in the car, then have a meal when I get home. Eat in a way that works for your body and your schedule.

Get there 30 minutes early. Use that time to do the following:

  • Finish your registration.
  • Ask the teacher questions.
  • Go to the bathroom.
  • Change your clothes.
  • Put your clothes/purse/wallet/bag in a locker or cubby.
  • Get familiar with the studio.
  • Go inside the yoga room to get acclimated to the heat.

Once you are inside the room

  • Lay out your mat. Put the towels on top of the mat to prevent slipping. You are barefoot, btw. Place your drinks next to your mat.
  • Sit in the second or third row so you can watch more experienced people in front of you.
  • Lie down or chat with other folks about their experience.
  • The teacher will come in to begin.
  • Listen to the teacher’s guidance.
  • Do NOT feel the need to do the entire sequence.
  • Do NOT feel the need to be in a pose in its full glory. Respect your limitations.
  • Do NOT hold your breath. Take deep breaths through your nose. Breathe.
  • Do NOT compare yourself to other people. Everyone is on their own journey. (I call it “the yogi flu.” You’ll make yourself sick comparing the quality of your postures to someone else’s. Focus on yourself. Those 90 minutes are precious self-care time.)
  • Sit down. Take breaks when you need to. You have your entire life to master the sequence. Honor and listen to your body’s messages.
  • Expect to sweat like you’ve never sweated before in your life.
  • Sip your water and/or sports drink throughout the entire class. Don’t gulp. You may feel nauseated.
  • If you feel the urge to bolt from the room, sit down or lie down. The teacher will encourage you to stay in the room. You are an adult, so you can do what you want. However, human beings run toward pleasure and run away from pain. Your teacher knows if you leave the room, you are not coming back inside. A pee break is one thing. Bolting from a 105-degree room in a panic is another. Try to stay in the class.
  • Enjoy a long savasana (corpse pose, aka final relaxation).

After the class

  • You did it!!
  • Be amazed at the experience.
  • Be amazed at how wet your clothes are.
  • Pee.
  • Drink more water and sports drink.
  • Shower at the studio if you can. If not, change out of those sweaty clothes (especially in the winter).
  • Put a towel on the car seat if you didn’t change your clothes. 
  • Drink more water and sports drink. (Again!!)
  • Eat your snack.
  • Take a shower at home.
  • Eat a meal.
  • Take care of yourself that day. Rest if you can. You exerted a lot of energy.
  • Register for your next class.
  • Sleep well.

Up next: After all these do’s and don’ts why do I like Bikram Yoga?

Meditation: The Missing Link

While I was on a break from blogging, I integrated meditation into my life.

Daily meditation forces you to:

  • Stop
  • Sit still
  • Breathe
  • Connect

Which in turn makes you:

  • Aware
  • Calmer
  • Slower to react
  • Quicker to bounce back

What I mean by “quicker to bounce back” is that when you do get upset, meditation can bring you back to emotional balance. It reminds you that even when life is kicking your ass, you still have two things:

  • Plenty to be grateful for
  • A Higher Power that loves you

And even if you don’t believe in a Higher Power, believe that you have family and friends who love you.

I’ve taught yoga for 19 years and always dismissed meditation. I thought asana (the poses) and pranayama (deep concentrated breathing) was enough. They are not enough. Stopping amid life’s “daily-ness” and “busyness” is crucial for good mental health. I’ve even got my kids doing daily meditation.

Everyone thinks they are too busy to meditate, so I’ll share short guided meditations I’ve found on YouTube.

The easiest way to start: Go to YouTube and type “guided meditation 5 minutes.” A list of videos will come up. Pick whatever speaks to you.

My children and I do a 5-minute meditation together before they leave for school. I let them pick one. (And yes, they only do it because I make them. They have learned how to sit still with eyes closed for 5-minutes. That alone is a victory.) Below is a favorite from Honest Guys. Definitely check out their channel.

Click to watch the video

After the kids leave for school, I do a 10-15 minute meditation by myself. My two favorites are anything from the YouTube channels Great Meditation (10-20 minutes long) or Vipassana Meditation (15-60 minutes long). Vipassana meditation, also called Insight meditation, asks you to notice your thoughts, feelings, and sensations without judgement.

Click to watch the video
Click to watch the video

Me and the kids do a second 5-minute meditation together after they arrive home from school.

At bedtime, they listen to a sleep meditation. There’s also hundreds to choose from on YouTube. Lengths can be anywhere from 10 minutes to 11 hours. Some channels play live music 24 hours a day. Some are guided meditations. Some are music only. There’s enough variety for everyone. I choose 1-3 hours in length for the kids. My sleep meditations are 30 minutes to an hour. My favorites are Honest Guys and Jason Stephenson.

Click to watch the video

Let me know if these suggestions are helpful. Meditation was the missing piece from my life.

Love,

Althea