Thursday, June 22, 2017

Practice: Ahimsa

It seems quite fitting that I would begin (yet another) resurrection of my blog with an intention that I began my year with. Ahimsa. This concept of nonviolence to all living things was exactly what inspired me to cause less harm and to cultivate more kindness. So I decided that I would mindfully apply this practice to my daily life. And it made a huge difference...

My first step in this new direction was actually my New Year's resolution- to eat a vegetarian diet for an entire year. And how do you think that I prepared for this new "challenge"? Well, I crammed as much BBQ down my throat as I possibly could between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve! Not exactly the point, right? But I haven't gotten to the part where I actually learn something yet, so bear with me.
I decided to start my year off with a hard reset- which to me, of course, was veganism. The toughest of my vegetarian tiers! No meat, no eggs, no dairy. NO CHEESE!!! I didn't even touch honey. And hell yeah, it was tough. My heart is still breaking over that piece of homemade tres leches cake that I had to turn down... 

Not only was the diet tough, but so was my audience! I had people try to trick me into eating something that contained animal products, I had co-workers attempt to shame me for what I had packed for lunch, and I had hot bacon breath blown into my face! ..And so I learned my first real lesson of this new journey-the crab effect. 

If you were to place a bunch of little crabs into a large bowl and one of those little, determined, crabs tried to crawl out of the top- the other crabs would pull her back down instead of pushing her up. That is the crab effect. Kind of sad, right?

That is exactly what these naysayers were trying to do- drag me down instead of cheering me on and offering support. So in continuing my journey to cause less harm, I started to surround myself with encouraging individuals and tuned out the insolence. I found friendships with like-minded yogis and compassion cultivators who had open minds and open hearts (and amazing vegan bean dip recipes.) And my life is better for it.

Next, I realized that most of the excess negativity in my life could be traced back to my job and I knew I had to make a change. Morale had always been low there but with staffing changes and a big move to a new hospital- co-workers were at their all-time worst, and so was I.  I hated my job. And it was starting to show. So instead of experiencing that unnecessary pain of clocking in for a job that I loathed, I found one that I didn't. In fact, I found one that I love. And now I drive to work every day with a smile on my face. 

It was easier to remove the external negativity and harm in my life than it was to decrease the internal harm that I think we all can put ourselves through. I gave up meat pretty easily, I strengthened good friendships, and ended the toxic ones without too much effort. But I was still awfully hard on myself. When I looked in the mirror I usually had something cruel to say to myself, something to critique, or an imperfection to dwell on. So that's what I'm still working on. Every single day. I challenge myself to look for the things I love about myself and I try to appreciate the things that I used to believe made me "imperfect." The world is a much more beautiful place when you realize that you are part of that beauty.

So, sweet reader, I hope that you consider the harmful things you might participate in. Workplace gossip? Eating until you're so full that it hurts? Bad mouthing your "not-so-ready" bikini body? Passive-aggression towards a loved one? We all cause harm, whether we're willing to except it or not. But I encourage you to acknowledge it, change it, and grow from it. You'll be so glad that you did.

Food for thought: In what ways do you cause harm and how can you decrease (or even eliminate!) that from your life?

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Badges

Last night I caught a glimpse of the tattoo on my boyfriend's left shoulder blade as he was toweling off after a shower. I've seen that tattoo nearly every single day, but last night I couldn't help but smile in its direction. It reminded me of something. A badge.
This little symbol is one of his badges. Some little reminder of something that he had gone through, something that made such an impression on him that it had literally left behind its mark. I know because I have nearly the exact same badge on my shoulder blade.
Not terribly far from the badge on his shoulder there is the scar on his right hip from a bicycle accident that he told me about over drinks on our very first date. Perhaps after I had already told him about my crooked middle finger, mangled in a door slamming accident back in 1995. Mom wears one of her badges on her chest, a scar from the port-a-cath that was removed after she had beaten breast cancer. We all have badges and they each tell a story.

Every day I see patients baring their badges, their scars, their stories and I can't help but wonder what they each have to say. Most of the time I really can't help it, and I ask them to tell me about that faded panther tattoo they got when they were 18 at the county fair, or that scar on their elbow from a hoverboard ride with the grandchildren gone wrong. Some of these badges cause a smile, maybe even laughter when explained to the inquirer. Some badges will forever be painful, acting as a constant reminder of something that would preferably be forgotten. But all of these marks represent something that cannot be changed. And for that, these badges are honorable. Whatever it was, you made it out alive. You experienced it. And you learned from it. Regardless of how it got there, you're the one standing here today still able to look at it. That is something we should all be grateful for.

So I took a good hard look at my body tonight, reliving memories and acknowledging my own story. I found the beauty in each of my badges as I took the time to tell myself what I liked about every single one of them. Nobody else wears the exact same collection of badges that I do. And I just love that.

Your badges are beautiful. Wear them proudly, darlings.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Raesurrection

For nearly an entire month, I had lost myself. I was bumping around my world, aimlessly, giving only pieces of myself and my time to those who deserved much more. I felt like the weight of the world was wrapped around my shoulders and I found myself trudging through long days, out of breath. But when I said goodbye to twenty-five after waking up last Monday morning, I was faced with a new starting line. Although I kid about twenty-sixth chances, I truly felt anew. And chances were all around me.

This most recent weekend allowed me to celebrate the life of another. A life that has become very important to me. I found myself sitting beside him, with the windows down and my feet perched atop the dash, just smiling. My fingers found their way to the nape of his neck as the opposite hand hung out of the passenger window, surfing the breeze. Another chance.

When I'm feeling the way I felt, like the depths of my couch cushions are the only reasonable place to be, my mat goes untouched. Either left on the porch, collecting pollen, or curled up into itself next to the front door, begging to be taken out. My mat stood there as a pink beacon, calling me home. And when I finally crawled back onto that mat, I found refuge. I regained my strength, my movement, and my appreciation for my mind, my breath, and my body. Another chance.

In another attempt to utilize my ability to move and breathe, I took to the trail. This morning the trail nearly took that breath away. The recent storms have washed the leaves clean of any dust caused by tires and tennis shoes, revealing what I believe to be the greenest of greens. Few others were up as early as me this Saturday, so I had nearly the entire lake to myself. Standing at the trailhead, I filled my lungs with the fresh morning air and as I sighed, I felt my heart swell for my life here. Staying suddenly didn't feel so impossible anymore. Another chance.

Sometimes you don't get second chances (or twenty-sixth chances.) So when you're handed one, don't be foolish. Make the most of possibility. Take it and run.


Sunday, May 22, 2016

Birthday Blabber

Another birthday.

As everyone knows, I've always loved birthdays and I've always liked to treat myself to something special each year. I mean, exactly this time last year I was sitting on the side of a volcano waiting for the sun to rise in Bali. Today I am nestled into my red couch, wrapped in a blanket, with a hot cup of coffee on the table in front of me. There is no trip on the agenda, unless we really do go to IKEA later...

Twenty-five was a funny year. I learned a lot of lessons..all of which were learned the hard way. The, seemingly, only way to learn a lesson. My life today is completely different than it was at the start of my twenty-fifth year. And what I am giving myself this year for my birthday is forgiveness, self-love, and a fucking hug. It will be difficult to look back on 25 fondly. Some days, I just wish I had stayed in Thailand...

What if?

-My mom always used to call this the 'What If' game. Her rule was simple...no 'what if's?' She tried to teach me that there is no sense in asking yourself such a painful question. The kind of question that can never be answered. But seriously, what if?-

I will say that I made a lot of wonderful friends in the last 365 days (it was a Leap Year, right?) Last night we went for Mexican food, in true Rae-fashion. I sat at the end of that huge table where I was able to see all of my beautiful friends under the glow of string lights and Saint candles. I was full of house margaritas and gratitude as I watched the salt fly from the rims of our glasses clinking togther throughout dinner.  One spoon, for the tres leches cake, fed our 9 mouths, and we declared it to be lucky for each of us to have a bite of birthday cake.
..As if I could ever be more lucky than I felt just then.

Twenty-five was hard. But I hear that the 26th time's a charm. And I've got everything that I need to make it a wonderful year. Especially with wonderful friends to see me through it.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

On Love, Crushes, and Other Things.

Lately, I've been bombarded with these topics in my personal life. The fragility of new loves, the seemingly indestructible presence of the old, the fun flirtation had with a forbidden crush, and the sweetness of selfish self-indulgence.

Last night I was listening to an episode of my favorite podcast and the topic was the 'forbidden crush.' I could go on to share my views on many aspects of this particular episode but to prevent rambling, I will just touch on one specific point. Crushes are who or what we want at that particular point in our lives. The guy who is 'husband material.' The guy with a million stamps in his passport. The guy you always see at yoga. You desire what may fulfill you. But as you grow and change, so can your mind. And mine often does.

I was recently told that I am reckless with my feelings. Which I could not agree with more. I am a zero to sixty kind of gal. One minute I'm hot, and in the blink of an eye I can be as cold as ice. A Gemini to the very core. I've pushed many a boyfriend away because of this duel personality, but I guess that is usually the plan. To 'silently' slip out the back... or so I tell myself. But really what I do is give my heart to these men quite easily, and then I tear it away with little warning. It's like waking up from a dream.. I sort of just snap out of whatever trance I had myself in.

Unfortunately it probably has a lot to do with the fact that I compare most of these relationships to the one I consider to be the most serious. Although it was serious, it was not always healthy. We spent a lot of time arguing and betraying one another. Yet we were able to connect on another level that allowed us to somehow overcome these instances just long enough to share a burning passion and curiosity for each other. He once referred to me in a letter as being like a drug, intoxicating and fleeting. As was he. Despite the fights and the pain we dragged each other through, we shared some beautiful memories, some serious laughs, and many of the most influential years of my young life. Most days I go without thinking about him, but some days he still leaves a gaping hole in my chest. It's hard to lose any love, no matter how ugly it may have been at the end. And it's sometimes easy to think that returning to this love affair would breathe life into those stale memories. But it's important to remember that if that relationship didn't make you happy before, what makes you think it would make you happy now?

These thoughts seem to be in the forefront of my mind since moving. Uncovering hidden treasures from past relationships as I packed my life into cardboard boxes. Stirring up the feelings I had the last time I had loaded my life into boxes. And the time before that. And the time before that.

So here I find myself in a scenario much like one I've already experienced. Out of a relationship and into a one-bedroom bachelorette pad, living in sweet solitude. I've done a lot, literally and mentally, to clean my slate and I've just begun tot have a relationship with myself again. I spend many a quiet night in perched atop my meditation pillow exploring these thoughts and feelings. Trying to forgive myself and others for the sticky residue and uneasiness that heartache can often leave behind. Trying not to over analyze my every action but instead being patient and tolerant with myself. I'm actively working towards letting go of the things that do not serve me. The weight of the baggage I carry from my greatest heartbreak. The guilt that pushes down on me from the hearts I have trampled. The ache of wanting something that I cannot have.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Road to Pai was Paved with Good Intentions.

Thailand changed me. Just like any other outstanding experience I've ever had. But this change came suddenly and without warning.

It was after nearly two weeks in Thailand that I finally found myself in Pai. Beautiful Pai. The hostel was, quite literally, a circus. The scenery was right out of a fairytale. The tiny lights of this tiny place glittered after the sun set behind the mountains. There were waterfalls, and firesides, and snuggly puppies. My heart was aflutter and I nearly pranced through the streets thinking to myself, this could be home.



The people I met while I was in Pai changed everything. Free spirits who had each quit their jobs to travel the world. All of which had only planned to only stay a few days in Pai..and ended up staying for weeks. Months. Forever in Pai. The Venus Pai Trap.

I stayed up late with these beautiful people, exchanging bits and pieces of ourselves under the stars. Their stories inspired me. Their stories stirred something up inside of me that snapped me out of what now feels like a dream.

It took every ounce of responsibility I still had left not to take the yoga instructor position they had posted all over the place. Free room and board. And food. For as long as I cared to stay....
I'm still dreaming about those fucking posters.

I left Pai at the very last minute that I possibly could. I hung behind the rest of my group to soak up as much of it as possible in the short time that I had there. I left Pai just before sunset. And instead of that nauseating van, I got to say goodbye to Pai from the back of a motorbike. Twisting and turning down the 762 turns that the road to Pai was made of, I watched the sun set. And everything that I ever wanted changed instantly.



Monday, February 29, 2016

Temples.

This morning we set out to explore a few of Chiang Mai's Buddhist temples. The two temples that we visited are the two that are said to house the two relics of the Buddha. The first, Wat Suan Dok, was my favorite. With its perfectly white washed mausoleums housing the ashes of Chiang Mai's royal family and the breathtaking golden chedi, this temple stole my heart.














As Kadison and I wandered its grounds and throughout the ubosot, we felt dwarfed by the enormous statues of Buddha. We quietly admired the intricate details as monks meditated nearby and tip-toed back out into the garden to rejoin our group, humbled by Wat Suan Dok's beauty.

We cruised around the gorgeous Chiang Mai University campus before heading up the mountain to the second temple we were to visit, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. This temple is the most famous temple in Chiang Mai named after the mountain on which it was built. According to legend, the second relic of Buddha was placed on the back of a white elephant and was released into the jungle. The elephant climbed Doi Suthep, stopped, trumpeted three times and then dropped dead. This was considered an omen and the temple was built at this site.









We climbed the 306 step staircase to the temple and waited for the rest of our group (who opted to take the cable car to the top.) This temple, though beautiful, was crawling with tourists. We saw a million different Buddha statues, had our fortunes told, and visited a jade factory and showroom before we headed back to the hostel for our usual lunch of Pad Thai and a cheeseburger and fries.