Thursday, February 26, 2015

On NonGrasping Impermanence

"It's funny how some distance
Makes everything seem small.
And the fears that once controlled me
Can't get to me at all ..."
              - Let It Go/Frozen

I admit it. I'm a fan of the movie Frozen. I am not sick of the movie or the characters or the song which topped charts and iTunes download records immediately upon its release. It doesn't bother me that the Elsa costume was more popular than any other this past Hallowe'en. And I enjoyed the arc on Once Upon A Time that featured well-cast actors in the key film roles.

Why do I love this movie so much -- despite the abuse by retailers and the mass inundation of all things Frozen over the past 12 months? (Let It Go is NOT a Christmas song -- seriously.) I like the theme of this Hans Christian Anderson/Disney-blended tale. It spotlights two strong, independent and kind-hearted women -- sisters who love each other and honor each other. I like that their story allows them to explore and eventually discover who they truly are, concluding only when they embrace their different paths and their own personal truths and uniqueness.

For those of you who know me, you might say that I'm a rather, um, Type A personality. Like Elsa, I tend to hold things in and shut myself off. I like to feel in control and I cling tightly to my perceived power, managing my existence and seeking to affect occurrences with my own willpower.


As Let It Go played endlessly over the past year, I made the choice to select it as the theme-song for my own personal soundtrack. I've learned something from its animated tale. Elsa held so tightly to everything in her life that she caused devastation when the pressure built up and she inevitably lost control -- and she lost the people most dear to her. She ran away. She shut herself off. But in the end, she faced her fears and discovered the beauty of her uniqueness and the strength inside her heart. She learned to love herself for who she was. Only then was she able to find joy and truly Let Go.

Now, I don't believe in New Year's Resolutions. I believe in Intentions. In Hopes and Wishes. And I believe in listening to the subtle whispers of the Universe as it nudges me toward people, places, projects, ideas, etc.

How could I ignore a message that resonates with me so strongly? Especially when it seemed to come from everywhere. And, just in case I shook it off as a fluke or wasn't paying attention, the message came from another source ... then another ... and another ... and so on.

It was Suzanne's yoga class a few weeks ago that truly gelled the idea within my spirit. (It's been kind of an ah-ha game the Universe and I have been playing until I finally got it.) See, so often we find ourselves struggling against the elements or trying to affect control on the people and events around us.  Control is an illusion. I've said it before and I'll say it again. All things have their own flow and move at their own speed and in their own time. And, it's not all about us all the time. Sometimes we have to sit back and wait for things to happen or change or whatever. Sometimes we can't manipulate, script or force it to play out "our way." 

Sometimes??? Well, most of the time ...

When we hold too tightly to something or someone ... when we attempt to control when or how a person behaves or an how event transpires, we damage it ... them ... the relationship. Only when we surrender and allow things to flow on its own can we truly appreciate the ride and the experience and the person ... or whatever it is we were once attempting to "manage."

It applies to everything ... this idea of Non-Grasping Impermanence.  In cooking you add ingredients and then step away as the baking occurs. In a book -- be it fiction or non, you read from beginning to end, awaiting the next chapter, character choice, discovery or revelation. With friends, you reach out and then step away and wait for a response or a word or a comment or a conversation or an evening where you spend time. With children, you teach and guide and then step back. With flowers, you plant them lovingly in the ground and offer food and light ... then you step away and watch them bloom. 

If you hold too tightly, you loose control. (Thanks .38 Special for telling me that 30 years ago. Wish I'd listened then!)  And in holding too tightly or trying to control the "flow," you damage and miss the beauty. Sometimes, you even lose what (or who) it is you're trying so desperately to control.

In yoga, we flow from pose to pose. Sometimes there is one that is more challenging. When I find myself in a difficult pose, my mind and body struggle. I realize then that I'm fighting myself, attempting to control the pose and its affects. Sometimes it's better to step away -- to get out of the "pose" that is causing the stress. Another option though is to ease your grip on your body and your mind and relax. Breathe. Remember that what is happening truly lasts only a few moments. Then, you might find beauty in the subtle struggle.You might be able to settle into it. You might even discover a little extra strength as you relax and truly allow the endorphins to flow.

Okay, okay, I say to the Universe. I got it. Let It Go ... Surrender. Embrace the idea of Non-Grasping Impermanence. And like Elsa did so beautifully, Sparkle On and Evolve.

How to accomplish said Intention you ask? Ah ... that's sharp of you. See, for the first time in forever ... I don't know. I don't have a little list of steps or expectations. It's kinda neat. Like I don't know what pose is next for me in a Yoga class, I don't know what awaits me in the days ahead. But, I intend to honor and celebrate and enjoy them, resisting the urge to control, spin, manage, maneuver or bend the people and experiences I encounter to my will, My hope and wish is to meet what comes without swirling and seeking in my frenzied Type A control-freak way of old to shape the people and experiences into what I think they can be ...

I challenge you to discover the Beauty of Non-Grasping Impermanence. After all, any illusion you have regarding your ability to control what comes next is just that ... an illusion. Explore surrender and enjoy the beauty that comes back to you and the stress that falls away.

Let It Go ... Let It Go ... Can't hold it back anymore.... I once thought I should. But then I realized that Surrender offers its own unique gifts. Time to enjoy the surprise and adventure that greets me when I don't hold tight. 
                                                                                                                         -- Jenni

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Crazy Chaotic Class Creates Clever Challenge-Management

Rehearsal cancelled last night to offer our cast a much-needed night off to regroup and process what we'd been working so diligently. Feeling a little frayed at the edges, I thought I'd make use of the free night with a calm evening of Slow Flow Yoga at the Shelter. Re-focus a bit. Ground myself. Find that inner calm. 

Well, I found what I needed. But not how I expected to find it ... 

First, the instructor -- the Shelter founder's sister who always leads a stirring class -- had jet-lag from her training trip to India. (Totally understand that.)  Hence, a last-minute replacement instructor -- Destiny by name -- was called in. Then, Destiny had car issues. And thus, class started about 15 minutes late. 

No problem. I made use of the time to meditate, focus, chill, stretch and clear my head. Did some visualization to settle my busy mind. Do you recall how adults sound in those Charlie Brown cartoons? Well, as I sat in what was a very full room last night, that's what I heard. As time passed and class didn't begin, voices and conversations flowed through my head getting louder and louder. At some point, I recognized that the couple in front of me was speaking French! I found my mind reactivating in an effort to interpret but then made the choice to let that flow through as well. The result was a cacaphony of chaos flitting about inside my already fatigued mind.

Destiny arrived. The teacher that is. And the Flow began. Zoinks what a Flow it was! And though I can honestly state that the evening was not what I had set out expecting to experience, it turned out that it helped me find exactly what I needed -- physically, emotionally and mentally.

Poses came about differently. Warm up, balances and side planks. Twists and turns then half moon and reverse half moon. Chair to chair prayer twists on the toes and standing splits. Grounded crescent to crescent twists. It came at me like a tennis ball from one of those batting-cage like machines.  Music seemed a bit loud and out of sync with my anticipated definition of "Slow Flow" tunes. I dripped sweat more than I recall from any recent classes. And, at the conclusion of what I believe was a full hour of poses crammed into 49 minutes, I felt like one of those dishrags you ring out after doing a plethora of holiday dishes -- well used, stretched out and limp. But SO relaxed. And SO good.

It was a whirlwind. And it was JUST what I needed.

I got the message. When the unexpected disaster or challenge comes your way, you can let it break you or shake it off and keep going. You can stumble and fall and stay down. Or, you can stumble, fall, get back up and moving. You can let it throw you or you can let it flow through. You can fight it or you can embrace and experience.

Cause it happens. People do unexpected stuff. Life happens. The lines you expect or want to hear are not what come. You have to think on your feet ... stay focused and in the moment. The roads are slick and you have to reject the inclination to panic and opt for calm. The lights are set wrong. The car doesn't start. The weather thwarts the best laid plans. The words you want to hear or the call you hope to get doesn't happen. In these moments, only You can decide not to fall apart and pull it together. And you have to prepare mentally and physically and emotionally for those moments cause they Will come.

As I'm personally managing a crazy schedule and embarking on some more stressful moments in upcoming days and weeks, Destiny's class reminded me how to manage ... how to Let It Flow. 

Amidst the drama, rejections, twists and turns, silence, sludge, disconnects, demands, sounds and undesirable "stuff" that flies your way, consider choosing your challenge-management cure now.  I can pretty much predict that when it actually hits you won't have a nice calm environment to evaluate options. You'll have to do it on the fly.

You might even have to do it in a Slow Flow yoga class.

Thanks Destiny for reminding me that you can find calm in chaos. 'Cause that's truly when you need to find it.
                                                                                    -- Jenni

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Shades of Grey … Confessions of a Hopeful Romantic

In 2012 E.L. James' Fifty Shades of Grey hit the book-stand and took the world by storm. What began with one little book transformed the romance industry and elevated a shadowed genre into the mainstream.

Perhaps it wasn’t actually a "new" genre. Heck, I'm sure it's been around. Underground. But suddenly extremely and intense … um … detailed ... um -- let's just define them as "aspects of love" -- went mainstream in the vivid manner they were captured in print. No matter how you feel about the characters, the subject, the plot, the choices made or the writing in general, these books obtained both popularity and notoriety. 

Everyone was talking about them. Everyone had an opinion about them. Everyone had heard about them. Sales sky-rocketed, resulting in the release of numerous new trilogies following the "aspects of love" introduced so graphically in Fifty Shades. The Crossfire Series by Sylvia Day and Stark Series by J. Kenner are just a couple examples. Scroll through Barnes & Noble or’s websites for books with similar themes to Fifty Shades and Fifty trilogies come up.

As a savvy reader, I found myself curious. What was this book all about? What was it about Fifty Shades that was sucking in the readers? Was it "all that?" So.... yes, I read it. In fact I read all three.  (This Trilogy concept of writers nowadays is becoming rather annoying. I can't read just one book to get the story? I have to read three??? But that's another blog.) 

I downloaded the books to my Nook. A common choice with this series I have discovered. When it's on an electronic reader, it can be read anywhere. And no one is the wiser. Again, an interesting element of this genre. And yes, I was intrigued enough to read to the end.

Now, I'm not for a minute stating that the "aspects of love" described in this tale are the way to go for the mainstream. Fifty Shades dealt with a specific lifestyle choice -- and examined some of the reasoning behind that choice too if you read to the end. I'm not in any way approving or advocating victimization or domination or cat o' nine tales or physical abuse. That's not what I'm saying here at all. No, this book involved consenting "characters" making choices on their own and shined a spotlight, taking these "aspects of love" into mainstream popular novels. I'm not getting into a debate about the subject matter or peoples' rights to choose how to express love to another consenting adult. We're all unique individuals and what's right for some isn't right for others. 

No, I'm just observing here and admitting that I was intrigued by this book series. And I don't think I'm the only one out there who was drawn in by the storytelling crafted by E.L. James. 

This week, all the conversation and focus has turned to the movie. People are slamming or laughing or commenting or criticizing. BUT -- and this is what I find so curious -- they are GOING. People are talking about it. People are buying tickets -- no matter what the critics say. They are taking dates. And they are watching this film. The Fifty Shades movie whipped up $81.7 Million its opening weekend!

What is that? Why is that? Curiosity? Hype? Perhaps, like me, they are simply curious ... perhaps they wonder where these "aspects of love" lead? And, if people are curious, they will read on or buy that ticket to find out themselves in the safe environment of a movie theater or their own imagination. No judgement here ... just an observation.

Whatever the case, Fifty Shades has sparked a writing revolution. Bared to You, Reflected in You, Entwined with You, Release Me, Claim Me, Complete Me. WOW! That doesn't draw in the Pearl Series or Glass Series or these numerous other trilogies out there that have continued to explore these ... um ... detailed "aspects of love."  

When I started to read "romance" novels, it was Victoria Holt and Phyllis A. Whitney that inspired my imagination and made my heart race with their tales and characters.  I liked the romantic settings and the intrigue. MM Kaye gave me India in Far Pavilions. Jane Austen gave me Mr. Darcy. Charlotte Bronte gave me Mr. Rochester. And Emily Bronte gave me my beloved Heathcliff. These strong male characters all had their own issues but I'm still drawn to their stories. Anyway ... as detailed and creative as these stories were, there were few graphic scenes. 

My reading selections are really beside the point but I have them. I remain a hopeful romantic. By choice. But Fifty Shades has commandeered and created a spin-off to the romance genre that no one could have predicted. People are talking about it -- if they object to it or not, they still are giving it air time. And that makes me curiouser and curiouser. 

Yes, I read the Shades. No, I didn't explore any of the spin offs. One series of this type was sufficient. I personally prefer a little more romance in my reads. I'll take Jamie Fraser and the Outlander series any day. I'll take images of Scotland and dashing highlanders over red rooms and safe words. I'll take Healthcliff and the moors. Stories that inspire my imagination and dreams.

But, that's just me. 
                                                                                     -- Jenni