Rush hour, tension and F-bombs

The weather was lovely so I decided to ride my bike to my 5:30pm meeting near the White House. Boy was I in for a surprise. Although I am an avid biker I had yet to experience the challenges of biking in downtown DC during rush hour. It was treacherous and unkind…or shall I say commuters are unkind. Luckily there is a bike lane traveling West after 9th St. NW so I thought the quick trip would be a breeze.

Let’s see- a car passed me then stopped in front of me to reverse into a parking spot, a pedestrian walking against the light yelled at me to “f-off” as I approached and yelled, “Hey” and my favorite, a young lady with headphones on blissfully galloping across street. She looked so peaceful as she skipped across the road–not in the crosswalk— without looking for oncoming traffic. As I approached her I thought, “Surely she is going to look this way!” She didn’t. I rang my bell several times but she couldn’t hear me and just as my front wheel nearly impaled her I reached out my arm waving furiously at her in an effort to get her attention, she left her seemingly peaceful state and yelled, “What the ‘f#$%’ is wrong with you?” What’s wrong with ME? Wow. What’s with the F-bombs? And the honking. Oh my. What’s with the honking? People are honking in the most futile of circumstances like failure to drive forward because someone is blocking the intersection or because they are lawfully yielding to pedestrians. Sheesh. The flow of traffic in this city and likely many other cities at rush hour is a study in impatience and tension. It felt like the entire city was on edge—everyone had a short fuse and that at any moment the city was going to blow. Why are we wrapped up and wound up so? I don’t usually swear so excuse my French but this city needs to take a ginormous sigh and chill the ‘f%^$’ out.

Disrespecting the Elderly

I was walking out of the hospital and an elderly woman, 80 years old, called out to me and asked if I could give her a ride home.  She was a dialysis patient and said she had been waiting for her transportation for 3 ½ hours.  It was 745pm.

I told her I would be happy to drive the car around to get her. As I approached in my car, my heart sank as I watched this feeble woman hobbling to the curb with her cane.  Her movements were so slow and deliberate, it was almost as if she was intentionally moving in slow motion.  I had to assist her to enter the car.  As if her circumstances were not appalling enough, the conversation we had in the car on the way to her Columbia Heights apartment upset me even more. 

She told me how she called her grandson  earlier that day to ask for a ride home and how he refused and cursed her out because she would not give him money.  She lives alone and when I asked who looks after her she said, “I look after myself”.  She does have some assistance.  They are young female “helpers” who come to assist her a few times a week.  It turns out they come to “help” themselves more than they help her. She related how they systematically and consistently pilfer her belongings and daily essentials.  Toilet paper, food,  laundry soap, small change—each disappearing little by little. She doesn’t refuse the help but knows that she would probably be better off without them. She sent one of them to the grocery store. The young lady bought some of the things she needed and then spent or took the rest of  the money for herself.

In the less than 10 minute drive to her home, she told me at least a half dozen stories about opportunistic and selfish young people who have taken advantage of her.  I then asked about whether or not she was linked into the District’s support system for the aging.  Well she was. In fact, it was the District’s transportation service that facilitated our chance meeting.

Our elders are among society’s most vulnerable.  I am horrified by the disrespect shown to our elders.  I am ashamed and embarrassed for us as a society and more importantly as a city.  It is time for us to teach our young people to respect our elders and to bolster the support and elders’ access to these services. We must appreciate the paths they have paved and opportunities they have afforded us.  We are indeed standing on the shoulders of giants and our elders  deserve the respect of kings and queens.

I helped her out of the car then gave her my number.  I told her she could call me if she needed assistance.  As I drove away, my heart ached for the hundreds or maybe even thousands of invisible elders, frail, feeble and alone just like her who need an honest, helping hand. I am grateful she had the spirit and courage to ask a complete stranger for assistance.  We have to do better.  For them and for ourselves. 

Reflections

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage”

A few hours ago I finished a yoga class with Greg Marzullo. Greg is also one of my favorite instructors and it was interesting to go to his class after my 30 day challenge with Mimi. Unbeknownst to me the class was a level 1. I really enjoyed it. It gave me a chance to slow down and marinate in the poses. Above all, it showed me just how much progress I have made in the last month. There was absolutely no struggle. I was comfortable and able to push and find my own edge in a different way. I am so glad I took the class because I would never have been able to fully appreciate the vast difference in my practice before and after the challenge. All of Mimi’s classes are challenging for me and even though I could see incremental progress in her class it was more difficult to appreciate because every class is so demanding and pushes you to your physical edge.

This is my last blog about the yoga journey. I waited a few days to write it because I wanted to see how I felt. Overall, the experience was incredible. I stretched myself in ways I never imagined, both physically and mentally. My perspective has shifted about so many things– the most important of which is my attitude toward things being convenient. The 30 days was by no means convenient. Once it was over and the flexibility returned to my evening and weekend schedules, it was hard for me to believe I did it. But I made the commitment and now I know I am capable of planning and sticking to the plan. The convenience didn’t matter because I had a goal. Now I realize convenience is a perception constructed by my inflexibility. I should be grateful that I have the freedom to change my lifestyle to accommodate a challenge like this. Those are the big things. Along the way, I learned and achieved a lot of little things the sum of which have made me a better person. Here are the ones I can think of right now:
1. Just show up. Something good will happen
2. Slow down. I slowed myself down, stopped multi-tasking and rushing around. It only creates anxiety and stress and is unnecessary. The world doesn’t end and no one gets hurt if you eliminate something from your schedule to maintain balance.
3. Plan when necessary. Planning is a good thing. And it helps achieve #2. Spontaneity is good too but planning is not an enemy.
4. Do your best and that’s enough
5. Listen to your body and go at your pace. Yoga isn’t a competition. I knew this before but in so many of these classes, I had to retreat within and figure out what my body was asking for and what its limit were in that moment. One of my biggest fears when I began was an injury. I avoided it because I listened to what my body was saying to me no matter how subtle. There is a phrase in “Desiderata”, don’t compare yourself to others, there will always be [yogis who can do more than you and those who can do less than you].
6. It’s ok to let yourself feel. I was not expecting the emotional rollercoaster the yoga sent me on. But I let it happen without resistance. Opening up and honestly facing emotion and pain is really the only way to heal and let go. Some days I was happy, others I was cranky, some I was agitated and others I was just there. Whatever the emotion was I just let it happen. They pass. I was very happy on day 30 but the minute it was over and Mimi hugged me, the emotions bubbled up and I cried. They were tears of joy, relief, accomplishment and gratitude.
7. The breath is the anchor of life. I knew this already but it really got me through some tough times on the mat. And it can get me through tough times in life. Deep breathing has healing and calming powers. It is a severely underappreciated resource.

Other changes were abundant.
a. My back doesn’t hurt…ever.
b. My hips are more open.
c. I can bind on the right side and the left isn’t far behind.
d. My upper body strength has vastly improved.
e. I feel taller and my posture has improved.
f. I feel more alert, present and at peace. I am still working on traffic though. But over the last month, I studied why I get so vexed in traffic. The singular reason is because people are being rude. It one of my pet peeves and that will likely never change. Knowing this, I need to change my reaction to people’s behavior since I can not control it.
g. I floss daily. This is related to the elimination of rushing. I am never in a hurry anymore. It’s amazing to me that such a profound change could happen to me in just 30 days. Of all the changes, I hope this one sticks the most because it impacts nearly everything else in life.
h. My measurements. I lost 3 pounds and 1 inch off each my bust, waist and hips. Modest but impressive because it’s pretty much from just adding yoga everyday.

So, what now? This was the jumpstart I needed. Once I started to feel better the motivation began to build. Once one door opens, you are presented with another, then another, then another. And I am profoundly grateful for my teacher. I could not have done it without her. She was there inspiring me, pushing when I needed it and looking for me when the universe sent signals about my doubts. Once I expressed to her my reservations about my ability to adhere to the rigorous schedule. She told me I HAD to finish—not just for me but for her. And I did. We finished together. It took commitment and courage. Life expanded and I am changed. Onward.

30 Days of Yoga with Mimi Rieger

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” Lao tzu

A few weeks ago I was lying in Shavasana in Mimi’s class and as the sense of calm, accomplishment and complete peace washed over me, I wondered how I would feel if I practiced yoga in this way everyday. But it has to be in ‘this’ way’ I thought. There is something about Mimi’s class that leads to a calming, “drugged” feeling I don’t often experience with other teachers. I mentioned it to her and told her about my plan to commit to 30 straight days of yoga. I wanted to see how it felt. What would happen to my body? To my mind and spirit? How much more flexible could I become? What else would I learn about myself and my body? As I looked at my calendar, I saw it would be no easy feat. I’d have to plan, get organized and above all…commit. I knew telling Mimi about my plan would help keep me accountable so I made the calendar and sent it to her. It was the first step to committing. Aside from academics, I rarely commit in advance to anything. I love spontaneity and tend to move according to how I feel in the moment. But I knew I needed to do this for myself. My physical health has been suffering due to my own laziness. I’ve packed the weight on, my joints have stiffened and I don’t have nearly the energy I am accustomed to. I guess these are my goals for the month. To jumpstart…to get that all back. I know I can. With commitment, persistence and patience. It took me five years to get in this shape and I have to remember that. I am ready. Kerry Ann sent me a quote yesterday that said, “Until you become so uncomfortable about not pursuing your goal that it becomes too uncomfortable to bear, you won’t be moved to do anything to achieve your dreams.” This applies to many things in life but in this case, it certainly applies to my physical condition and way I let fitness get away from me. So, I am ready.

I was procrastinating a bit in getting this journal started because I wasn’t sure how I would feel once I got going. My first class was last night at Studio DC. I got there early so I wouldn’t have to rush. This is also a goal for the month. No rushing around. The class was a hot class, which I wasn’t expecting. I am usually agitated by heat which is why I have avoided Bikram, but the class was amazing. Of course, I was dripping with sweat, but I dealt with the heat by intensifying my breathwork. Once that becomes my focus, everything else is insignificant. After last night’s class, I was exhausted. I was up at 5am to teach my 6am spinning class so it had been a long day. But as I sat a while to restore my body temperature, I felt drunk. I didn’t want to move. That’s the feeling I was talking about. The feeling I get after Mimi’s class. As I rode home, I felt more energized than ever and realized this commitment is going to change my life. I can’t wait to get unstuck….physically, mentally, probably spiritually. And it’s going to happen. I also will watch this subtle pain in my low back, right lateral knee and knuckles on my right hand. I will watch and notice what happens. For now it’s yoga- everyday and one breath at a time.