Thursday, May 10, 2012

Finding My Plumb Line

I went to a yoga workshop with Andrei Ram last month.  I've been processing it ever since. It was a four-hour workshop, and it included a physical yoga practice, along with meditation and pranayama (breathing exercises) and a talk about self realization.  It was a lot to process at once, actually.  I'd like to go to another one. 

The first thing I noticed about Andrei Ram is his posture. Now, granted, I had just spent some time in Texas with my thirteen-month-old niece (by marriage--my brother-in-law and his wife have a new gorgeous daughter) so I was in a posture-noticing mode.  You know how babies sit with absolutely perfect posture?  I always think it's because their plumb-line to God is still intact.

Here, look:
Jane and her friend Evan were totally smitten by Baby Lola.  It wasn't just me.

Andrei Ram has the same posture as our niece. 

He's a very interesting person, because he lives fully in this world.  He's not sitting in an ashram on a mountaintop somewhere, living the life of a monk and meditating and fasting for months on end.  He lives in this world, with all of its chaos and travel arrangements and noise. He's married. He has a smart phone.

But he has a very different way of BEING in this world.  A very different way of ENGAGING with this world. It's absolutely, completely peaceful.  Picture a giant body of water, completely undisturbed.   There are ripples occasionally along the edges, but the deep stillness at the core is unchanging. He's like that. His way of living seems perfectly aligned with who he is.

It's very attractive --people gravitate to him.  He's a very humble, gentle man, but he has this...essence of something much larger, of a purpose bigger than he is. People want that.

I want that.

I've been thinking a lot about that, actually.  About what it would take to get to a place where that kind of inner peace was just the default way of being.

In yoga, we talk a LOT about alignment.  I've noticed that when I focus on the proper alignment of my body versus achieving the pose, the pose becomes effortless.  (Well, if I can get into proper alignment, I mean.  The getting there can take some serious effort.)

For me, finding yoga was the beginning of a quest to find my alignment, not only in my physical practice, but also in my life.

Among some other things like meditation and a concerted effort at being wholly present in whatever I am doing, I've been experimenting with some dietary changes lately.  (By lately, I mean over the last year and a half since I stopped being in such excruciating pain.) Making these changes seemed like a logical first step to me --I didn't feel that I could seek a different way of being in the world if I was still eating and drinking in a way that made me feel physically ill.

The first change I made was giving up alcohol. This was actually really easy because once I found my joy again, I didn't want ANYTHING to take the edge off of it. I've been tempted to have a glass of wine every now and again, and I've always said that if I want one badly enough, I'll have one, but I just keep coming back to the idea that alcohol, for me, interrupts my joy.  It's been more than a year and a half now, and I'm still sober.

One of the surprising and incredibly welcome benefits of giving up alcohol for me is that I also gave up migraines.  I've had one migraine in 18 months, versus the 5-6 per month that I used to have.  It's like I got handed an extra week every month! My working theory is that I have some sort of latent allergy/intolerance to alcohol.  Let me just say that not having migraines is enough to keep me sober, even if all of the other benefits I've experienced weren't there.  I find I'm also more loving and more patient when alcohol-free. For me, it's been a huge shift in my quality of life.

Next, I gave up meat officially.  This was a barely noticeable since I never ate much meat anyway. (It doesn't really agree with me.)  Initially, I gave up fish, too, but I added it back in because it was just too hard to try to manage my dietary desires with those of everyone else in my family. I already cook more meals than I should due to food preferences and I found that after I cooked for everyone else, I'd just grab a handful of crackers or something, rather than cook yet another meal.  Left to my own devices, I still prefer to be totally vegetarian, but it just didn't work within the context of our family as it is now. That's okay. When the time is right, I'll make that shift officially again.

Then I gave up caffeine. This was the hardest change I made by far.  I guess it makes sense --I was a caffeine drinker for many decades.  But WOW, I underestimated just how potent a drug it is.  (Except when I was sailing through that red light (oops) when it occurred to me that I might need to drink coffee just to stay alive.)  I stuck with it, though, and I feel better. Interestingly enough, once I stopped hyping myself up on caffeine, I started to be more attuned with what my body needs. I started making rest a bigger priority. I started listening to what my body needs when I injure myself at yoga.  (Which I inevitably do, because I still haven't learned how to not try my hardest at every single pose in every single practice. I'm working on it.)

The other big changes I've made, I made after seeing this video.

It's long, almost 18 minutes, but it is AMAZING. I've been slowly incorporating the three cups of leafy greens, three cups of sulphur rich veggies, three cups of color into my daily diet.  It takes work and I'm not to the point of managing it every day yet, but I am committed to adopting a way of eating that makes the most sense for my brain and my body.  For me, that's part of living in alignment with my true self.

Next on my horizon, I've almost given up dairy (which is starting to make me sick so that's kind of a no brainer) and I MIGHT try going gluten-free. Just to give it a try to see if that's part of my true alignment.

I know what y'all are thinking, though.  You're thinking, "I am NEVER going to dinner at Barb's house!" I want to be really clear: I'm not saying it's for everyone. I'm also not saying that if you come to my house you can't have a drink or that there will only be straw for you to eat.  I'm just talking about what works for me. It's about living in the way that is most in tune with my true self. What works for me might be a total bust for you. I'm not passing judgment on anybody--I honestly have no feeling at all about what you eat or drink, except a true wish that I could give you this feeling of peace, this deep stillness and sense of health that I'm beginning to have. I'm just trying to find my path to the way of living that makes me feel the most whole and healthy, and seeing how that affects my way of engaging with the world.

For me, it's taking some discipline, especially in a world that promotes fast, cheap and unhealthy over everything else, but I'm convinced it's the path to get to where I want to be. It doesn't feel like sacrifice.  It feels natural. It feels like an offering.

And *I* feel fantastic.

7 comments:

Becca said...

good for you! I need to make more changes but it takes so much effort. When I get home at the end of a day and I am tired and cranky all I want is comfort food. I need a personal chef, because I like to eat well, just can't be bothered to do what it takes. Oh and going gluten free really is not that hard these days,. There are some great alternative products out there. If you do it let me know and I'll fill you in on some I've tried.

Anonymous said...

Barb,
I love your thoughts and the way you express them. I'm a bit envious though - more of your experiences though than your writing ;)
Love to see you and talk to you, even if I don't know if I will manage this summer...
Big hug from very far,
your cousin Karen

tanita davis said...

On NPR's On Being a couple of weeks ago, there was a yoga teacher on who is paralyzed from the chest down. I listened to that, and while I don't practice yoga - yet - for the first time, I thought, "Okay, wow. There is something to all of this."

I come toward mindfulness and mind-body connectivity from another direction, but I am hearing what you are saying, what my own body is saying, and making changes internally and externally, and in many, many, many ways... it feels like it's TIME for all of this, combining healthier choices with a more spiritually attuned stance toward my inner being.

Yesterday, I read an article by yet another yoga teacher which was just a serendipitous intersection of what else was going on in my head, and thinking about making changes, changes, changes... and now today, you...!

And I think again, "Okay. I'm listening. Maybe yes, right now."

So, thank you for continuing to share (and excuse that this reply is probably longer than the post...)

Barb said...

Tanita, I listened to that On Being with Matthew Sanford last year--my acupuncturist recommended it. I need to listen to it again because...well, WOW.

I'm SO glad you posted because I always feel a little funny talking about my spiritual journey in a public forum, even though I'm sure if I can help even one person find a way to something deeper, if I can leave a trail of breadcrumbs for another seeker, then standing out here completely naked is worth it. Your comment means a lot to me.

And oh, how I loved that article you linked here. Yes. THAT.

mamabeth said...

Barb-thanks for sharing the video and your journey toward alignment. I tend to float through life with little thought of how much I may be damaging my body, mind, and spirit. I'm glad to have friends who gently use their cattle prods to jolt me out of my complacency. You're an angel!

Barb said...

Oh, mamabeth, you made me blush. THANK YOU. Your comment made me so happy!

JennyP said...

The journey is kind of amazing. In January my church started a Biggest Loser contest, and the only reason I joined is because my friend made me. I thought, so yeah, I'm 20-30 pounds overweight, but I have been for 12 years. I'm 45 years old, it's too late to change now! So I started with very little effort. And lost a little weight, and liked it, so started reading up on health, and getting new cookbooks, and exercising. After being weekly Biggest Loser twice, my latent competitive juices started flowing, and I really began taking it seriously. Now I'm 22 pounds lighter and probably the healthiest I've been in my adult life. And a weird thing happened. It's become less about the weight and more about taking control of my life, which is what I read in your post. It's like I was letting life happen to me, and suddenly I woke up and said, hang on, nope, I need to be in control here! I can eat well, and feel good about this body I'm in. Now if I could just get those tricep muscles in line!