Strolling through the hills on my (mostly) usual afternoon walk with Charlie, I notice the vibrant green bunches of clover dotting the hillside, little yellow buds poking out of the bunchs attached by winding vine-like stems. I notice the bright green, almost flourescent color, and the perfection of each little clover with its heart-shaped leaves. Thought of spring come on this Groundhog Day. It is predicted to be an early one but this cloudy day offers little evidence of the sunny days to come. Only the clovers springing up through the mud left from last week’s rain give me the light feeling of winter’s end approaching in a month or so.
I appreciate the simple little clovers and only after observing them for a few minutes, realize that I am supposed to be looking for a four-leaf clover. Perfection. There isn’t one, of course. Perfection isn’t always readily available so why do we search for it, scold ourselves for not achieving it and judge ourselves and others with perfection as the barometer? It is a human condition to reflect on the past and the “if only” that result from those sad recollections. To worry about the future and the unknown events that await.
Arriving home, Charlie is not content to stay inside just yet so we wander in the yard and relax on his favorite lounge chair. Here he is content. I gaze forward at the mountains across the Valley and notice for the first time that I can see a mountain range beyond the first set. For a cloudy day the visibility is exceptional. A little sliver of sky remains under the clouds and it is that sliver that allows me to peek beyond the first barrier of mountains. Breathing. In and out. With Charlie resting between my legs, but poised, observing every little bird, every leaf moving slightly in the slight breeze, I am able to rest in the present.
In my yoga practice, my favorite thing is Ujjayi Pranayama. This is the breath that sounds like an ocean in my throat and is especially satisfying when I can’t physically be at the beach, looking at the ocean. When time must stand still, in an asana, while showing patience, or while gathering courage, breathing can help. So, in lieu of a mantra, since I’ve never officially been given one, I create my own. I am breathing in, I am breathing out.
Teaching this to children, 5 year-olds, is an enlightenment in itself. Have you ever heard children cheer when told it was time for yoga? Have you ever witnessed the serious face of a small child gazing over his hand in Warrier 2, or smiled secretly as a little girl in triangle pose looked up at her hand and said, “Hello hand!”
Yoga can mean moving into a posture, noticing one’s environment, listening to one’s body or simple quieting the mind long enough to breathe and be calmed by that magical sound.
Gratitude, like yoga, is a practice too. I am grateful to my teachers, to have a beautiful space to practice, to have a special place in my home to continue that practice and to share the gift of calm with 27 rambunctious 5 year-olds, who move through out the day, but who are grateful for the opportunity to slow down, listen to their private ocean and breathe in and out.
I am taking my time. This is something new for me because I operate at high-speed, my Type A personality functioning best with lists, schedules, and immediacy. I return emails promptly, phone calls a.s.a.p. and strive to fix all problems with ingenious solutions. Breathing deeply is a struggle for me and sitting to relax usually results in immediate sleep because when my motor slows down, it just stops.
Recently however, I have come to a realization. Most situations are not emergencies. Most questions do not require immediate answers and most importantly, time is precious. So, I am taking my time. I am training myself to breathe first, listen more carefully and ponder more often. I have not come to this conclusion alone. I have had many mentors along the way both virtual and those in my real life. The books I read keep me focused on the importance of taking each moment as a special gift.
So if I take a little long to make a decision, to respond to an email, to text back and answer or to return a phone call, you now know why. I am taking my time.
It is amazing what a little breath can do to quite a heartbeat, improve vision, sharpen hearing and to enhance perspective.
The view while dining...
There is nothing quite as nice as spending a relaxing day with a dear friend and today was that day. My good friend Laura and I took a nice drive to a lovely resort-Terrania walking the grounds and dining at the grill overlooking the ocean. This is heaven! We ate a great lunch with the ocean breeze blowing and the warm sun shining down on our shoulders. Following lunch, we walked along the ocean path gazing at the turquoise sea below.
What a view!
This site formerly housed Marineland, and I remember going as a child to see the marine animals. There is currently a path along the cliff that leads to a small private beach. I really can’t think of a more lovely location. So all of this beauty inspires me to think seriously about beach living. Why is it we are drawn to the beach as we get older? I find myself transfixed by the sea, the pelicans, the waves and dolphins frolicking in the surf. Is it possible that change can be positive? Maybe all things really do lead to the sea.
I used to think that it was a privilege to relax and take time to myself. I had to have a reason or excuse, or have worked very, very hard to earn a few moments of down time. Now I have come to the realization that I have to relax in order to do the work I do. I have to take the time to myself to rejuvenate, to think clearly and to keep myself healthy.
Relaxation can take many forms: meditation, yoga, exercise, solitude, a walk, reading a great book, staring into space, sipping tea with a friend, dozing on a lawn chair, gardening or napping at the beach-to name a few but my favorite new indulgence is massage. It has taken me a while to hone in on the best massage experience and I have decided that the massage environment is critically important. The environment can be a spa, a massage venue, or my new favorite, a therapeutic massage via a chiropractor’s office. The important elements are: quiet, calming music, essential oils that smell good, a convenient location, and a reasonable price so I can participate more often. Massage is not an indulgence, it is a recipe for health.
I feel better already!