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Sunday, December 8, 2013

Down to the Wire: Writing a Thesis

My thesis is due in four days. I should not be writing a blog post right now but I need to get away from something so structured. I enjoy writing when I can do it freely. It's fun to write ideas down on paper, to go back and edit them until you get the wording just right. Maybe you lose sight of a typo here and there, but everyone will understand what you mean anyways.

A thesis is not like this. It's not storytelling. A thesis is extremely structured writing with attention to detail that must all flow in a logical order. I'm convinced my brain doesn't work in "logical order". My brain wants to jump around from one idea to the next. My mind lets me focus on my paper for no more than 10 minutes at a time and then I realize there are much more important things to do... like paint my toenails, or see what people are up to on Instagram. Then I remember the larger task at hand, return to my computer for approximately 10 more minutes before I realize I haven't showered yet today. Once I'm clean and dressed in stretchy pants, I'm finally ready to sit down and write for the day.

I take a deep breath, I start scrolling through the 30 pages that exist so far to see where I need to add more detail. What isn't flowing logically and where do I need to explain deeper or add more information. Man this would be so much easier if I only had an iced venti unsweetened soy light ice shaken green tea latte right now.... That thought is all it takes and I'm out the door with headphones in walking to a Starbucks I swore I wouldn't go to again because the customer service there is so bad. But let's be honest... I only have four days left to work on this paper, so it's pertinent that I not waste any time and go to the closest Starbucks I can for my aforementioned green tea latte.

With a latte on my desk and a kale and butternut squash wrap in my belly, I'm finally ready to write again. Here we go... Maybe I need a nap. Just 10-20 minutes. I mean I did just eat after all. I need to relax while that wrap digests. That's important. I lay down for a minute but my mind reminds there is something else I should be doing. I really need to enter that contest to try to win a pass to the San Francisco Yoga Journal Conference. I mean as soon as I'm done with this darn paper, all I want to do is teach yoga anyway. Isn't increasing my yoga experience in every way possible a better use of my time than writing a thesis?  Yes, yes it is. And now that I have yoga on my mind, I have been sitting at my desk all day (sort of, don't judge...) and my back is starting to get sore.  I need to go roll my mat out and do some asana practice.

I move through a few rounds of Surya Namaskar, I go into headstand which is known to reinvigorate the body and focus the mind, I finish with a nice twist on each side. 10 minutes total. You know what would make me feel even better? I need to get more oxygen to every cell of my body. I practice pranayama. My pranayama naturally guides me into meditation and after another 20 minutes I'm finally ready to sit at my desk again.

I scroll through my thesis once again to find a good spot to begin working. Then I realize I haven't written a blog post in a very long time and my two followers must be very worried about me and my whereabouts. I also just need a break from the structure. So here I am, letting my mom and my best friend know that I am okay. I am in Hawaii and I am going to graduate in less than two weeks because I will get my thesis done on time. I will have a perfect manicure, perfect pedicure, my skin and hair will be radiant and shiny. Every cell in my body will have oxygen, my body will not have any stiff spots whatsoever. I will be well fed and well caffeinated and somehow it will all come together and I will get it done. I will turn my final draft in in four days. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Abundance

I am doing pretty well on my journey to not spend money for the rest of the year.  A big factor in that is that I have no money to spend! While this is slightly frustrating, I am able to see the lesson within it. For starters, nothing I can purchase is going to bring me happiness. I am happy just as I am whether it's teaching a yoga class, giving a reiki session, working on my thesis or chatting with friends. I don't think I would be any happier right now, and in fact maybe even less so if I had more money.

Not having money is a great way to learn how to be a better saver. I am confident that eventually money  will find its way to me again, when it does, I now know that I am not reliant on it for happiness. I look at all the items sitting in my closet that I never wear. Yet when I purchased each of those items I thought to myself "if I just had this dress, I will be happy" or "if I wear this when I go out to this event, my friends will be impressed". The truth is, nobody cares. Sure compliments are offered up but wouldn't those same compliments be offered if I was wearing something I already owned instead of some new piece? I think they would.

Right now I am following my passion, trying to create a career in the yoga field where I don't have to rely on another source of income. It takes time to build a practice and build steady students especially when I live in one of the world's most touristy places. Yet, I will stick with it. I don't need to make a ton of money, just enough to pay the rent, a cell phone bill and groceries.

Speaking of rent...In my last post I mentioned that I wasn't sure if I would be able to pay September's rent in full. I wasn't able to. Luckily my landlord is very nice and understanding and was willing to wait until my student loan check arrived for the second half of September's rent.

It just goes to show that there is always enough. If we have fears or anxieties (as I did about telling my landlord I couldn't pay), they are usually created within ourselves and not based on any truth. I am being put through a test at the moment to relearn how to react to situations. While I react and evolve I am able to shut off the power attached to these fears that I have created within myself. Abundance will come in more ways than one, in that I am completely confident. 

Butterflies are free to fly...

As a distraction while I should be writing my thesis, I have found several new books to lose myself in. Mostly they are books on yoga or the chakras as I strive to make myself a better yoga teacher with each passing day.
While looking for a book that was recommended to me by a student "The Celestine Prophecy" (which I haven't gotten to yet), another book jumped out at me. On the cover was a blue butterfly, and if you've read my blog post "The Journey" then you understand that butterflies have become my totem animal. When I first judged the book by it's cover and saw the title "Butterflies are Free to Fly" I thought, why do I need to know about butterfly flight patterns, but as I looked closer I saw the sub-title: a new and radical approach to spiritual evolution, I thought this book might have something I needed after all. The best part is...It's FREE!
So while I should be writing about a Social Impact Assessment on an eco-resort in Bangladesh, I am busy reading about spiritual evolution.
The book discusses Quantum physics and how that applies to life, and questions life in general. Are we real? Are we holograms created from an infinite source of power, abundance and love? How do we live our lives without suffering and pain? What is the key to life?
As Robert Scheinfeld was this authors (Stephen Davis) mentor at one time, the book is very similar to the book I talked about in "The Journey", "Busting Loose from the Money Game" . Thus speaking of a holographic universe and the need to show appreciation and gratitude. While I ultimately enjoyed the message from Busting Loose, it left with me some questions, such as how do we relate to each other if we are all creating our own holographic worlds. Davis takes it a bit further and seems to fill in the gaps that left me confused at the end of Scheinfeld's book.
While I am not finished reading yet, the message is good and well explained with lots of science to back it up.
If you choose to read this book based on my recommendation, just keep an open mind and remember that truth is just an opinion. Once upon a time it was "true" that the world was flat and the Earth was the center of our Solar System. Who knows when our current "truths" will be proved wrong. As humans (whatever that means and entails) we are constantly learning and evolving.
Read this book, and see where it takes your personal evolution...

Friday, August 16, 2013

Thesis

When trying to decide on a topic for my thesis, I kept returning to the idea of Buddhist Economics. If you're not familiar with this concept it is the idea that we base our economy on the general happiness of the citizens rather than income levels and GDP. If you remember back to September 11, 2001, when the twin towers were hit, President Bush didn't tell us to go home and spend time with our loved ones, he didn't tell us to rest and remember what is really important in life, friends and family (Buddhist Economics), he told us to go shopping. Our President told us to go out and spend money in order to keep the economy going.

GDP is only a recent economic indicator for us. It was invented as a result of the Great Depression. At the time it worked (depending on how you look at it) but now we need something different. GDP created a sense of devaluation to our natural resources. It was with this boom that we as Americans became more wasteful. Instead of having something fixed, we could just throw it in a landfill and buy a new, better version of the same thing. Disposable diapers, plastic cups, plates and silverware, the birth of the fast food restaurant, mono-culture farms the list goes on and on. People working together a little less, and competing against each other a little more... Competition in a sense where athletes start making insane amounts of money, amounts that mean they have to use drugs to be the best in their fields. You want to hit the world record for home runs? Great, there's a drug for that. You want to consistently win the tour de france? oh, we've got a drug for that too!

When we look at what GDP has created in our society, don't you agree it's time for a new measurement of success? Let's stop competing. Let's purchase things that are built to last and that can be repaired when they break. Bake some cookies and take them next door to introduce yourself to your neighbors. Build relationships with old friends and new. Spend more time with your family and less time at work. Patch the holes in your clothes, shop at Goodwill or hold a clothing swap with your friends (two birds in one stone!, great chance to socialize and get some new to you, slightly used clothes).

Since I have returned from India, I have purchased very few things other than groceries...A couple of new swim suits that are more appropriate for leading a Paddleboard Yoga class, some sheets for my Reiki table, and a cowboy hat to protect my face, chest and shoulders in the sun.

Less is more. The more we have the more we have to be attached to. Attachment is a distraction on the path to enlightenment. Only buy what you absolutely need. Sell or trade the rest of it. Try to lose that sense of competition which is ingrained in us as humans.

I am not writing my thesis on this topic as it would have been a huge challenge to find a test group to collect the research from. However, I am trying to adopt Buddhist Economics into my own life and hope that you will consider it as well. As I read other blogs and books I see this topic coming up more and more. I am happy to see this shift in perspective working its way into American culture. Had I known the changes I would make in my own life in the course of this past year and half, I probably could have used my own life as my thesis research, but who knows, maybe I'll write a book about it in the not too distant future.

Currently, I am not making much money. I am following my dreams and living my life exactly the way I want. I don't know each month if I will be able to pay my rent or not. In fact, I'm pretty sure I'm going to need to ask for an extension on September's rent from my landlord. My student loans are on the way and I can pay it as soon as they get here, but in all honesty, I'm not worried or stressed about this or the outcome it may bring. I am happier than I have ever been, pursuing my passion as a yoga teacher.

I will go the rest of this year without making a purchase other than necessities (no, an ipad is NOT a necessity!)  can you do the same? Can you go a month, or even a week without making an unnecessary purchase?  When was the last time purchasing something truly made you feel better?  Happiness is within, if you haven't figured that out, set down your wallet and sit on a meditation cushion. Spend some time with yourself, remember who you are. Find that inner peace. Bliss.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Full system shut-down, going into introvert mode

People are always surprised when I say I'm an introvert. Introvert doesn't have to mean someone who has no social skills or is socially awkward. Introverts can hold their own in social situations, but only for a limited amount of time, then we need to rest, restore and recharge. Some of us need more alone time than others, and I know I personally need a little less alone time than some of my fellow introverted friends.

After returning from India I took some serious introvert time for myself, some of that was due to jet lag, some of it just to process everything that had happened in the past year. Eventually I felt recharged again and started slowly working my way back out of my shell. Then I went on a rampage and joined a bunch of social groups on meet-up.com and asked my friends to hang out more and had a really great, busy couple of weeks. However, I over did it and now I need to be alone again. I have a lot to process and I only have a couple more weeks before my final class for my master's degree begins. I need me time. Down time.

This is the time where I keep the door to my room shut, I read alot, I might start trying to get a head start on my thesis, but probably not. I'll sleep a lot, short naps throughout the day. I might work on my never ending blanket which I am crocheting, I might paint and make a new vision board focused on my new business, I might start writing a book in hopes it will someday be published, I might learn to play the Ukelele and I might just sit and stare at the wall for a while.

It's nice to be alone once in a while to be able to hear your own thoughts. It's nice to sit still and not feel like you always have to be running to the next event, gathering or whatever it may be. Of course I still need to make money, so you can find me at any of my regular yoga classes, maybe I'll even focus my classes on the beauty of silence in the next couple weeks. Who knows, but whatever I do, I'll be completely happy and comfortable doing it, knowing that when I'm ready to come out again, my friends will be there for me.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Neyyar Dam, Kerala, India

Where Swami Vivekenanda
achieved enlightenment
When I signed up for my 500 hour teacher training in India, I thought I was going to be staying at an Ashram like I did for my 200 hour in The Bahamas. In The Bahamas I had wished I had been able to stay longer and do some Karma Yoga to let all my new knowledge sink in, but I wasn't able to change my plane ticket. When I found out my 500 hour would not be an Ashram and again no chance to stay on and practice Karma Yoga I decided to find an Ashram where I could do just that.

I decided on the Sivananda Ashram in Neyyar Dam, Kerala in the south western part of India. I flew from Rishikesh to Kerala rather than taking the train as I was now on my own and the train would have meant two full days and nights of traveling and transferring with all my luggage. No thank you!

Where the 3 Seas meet
I arrived at the Ashram just in time for breakfast. Breakfast was already laid out as I walked into the dining hall. The plates and cups were on the floor in front of bamboo mats. No utensils. Good thing my friend Huda taught me how to eat with my hands in Bangladesh! Seriously, I'm not talking about finger foods here, I'm talking about rice with sauces and gravies, vegetable curries and things that you wouldn't normally consider eating with your hands, it takes skill. There was a cup with some pink colored water in it so I assumed I was supposed to dip my fingers in that to clean/sanitize them before digging in to my food. I also used this cup to dip my fingers after they got covered in slimy food. Nope...I was supposed to drink that water which was infused with Ayurvedic herbs giving it the pink color.

After finishing breakfast I went to find out what my karma yoga duties would be. I was going to be working in the Health Hut, making smoothies, juices and all sorts of snacks for other guests of the Ashram. I was actually excited about my duties. When my shift ended I could make my own snacks. I had to pay for them of course, but I got to make them myself.
Sunrise Satsang at Neyyar Dam

Every Friday at the Ashram is a day off. I arrived on Thursday and you don't have to work on your first day. So I chilled on Thursday and found out about an excursion happening on Friday to the Southern tip of India where the Bay of Bengal, Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea all meet. I paid the fee and got up early the next morning to go visit this place where 3 seas meet and visit some temples including the place where Swami Vivikenanda (the first Swami to bring yoga to the west) achieved enlightenment. It ended up being a really long and seemingly unorganized day, so I promised myself on the following Fridays I would just stay at the Ashram and relax.

Around the Ashram
I believe this is Brahma
I wanted to stay at this Ashram as a karma yogi and use up the rest of my visa there. However while still in my training in north India an opportunity arose which required me to come back to Hawaii sooner than I had originally intended and it also required me to start putting together some slides on my computer. So I figured I would return to Hawaii in early May but everywhere I went I could not get internet access to purchase a plane ticket. The Ashram was no different.


Without internet I felt like I couldn't really get anything done that I needed to do. So on the next Friday I went to Varkala with a couple of friends I had made and we spent the day at the beach, eating amazing meals and using internet. I booked a flight back to Hawaii but I also found a room to stay at in Varkala and decided I would go back to the Ashram for a couple more days but then I was going to spend the last 3 weeks of my journey at the beach, where I belong.

As much as I wanted to stay and be a karma yogi in The Bahamas, and I feel I would have also loved doing that in North India with the group of swamis that were teaching us during my training, this Ashram in Kerala had a different vibe to it. The "staff" and "karma yogis" that were there were very negative. The were like yoga nazis. It's not uncommon for Ashram food to make you a little sick while your body is adjusting to it. However, the staff would give you a hard time if you missed any of the events you were supposed to be at, like Satsang or lecture. The initial reaction from them was always a condescending "why aren't you there?" or "You need to be at such and such" without ever checking to see if you were okay. There was just no compassion in it. Myself and friends of mine were all having trouble dealing with the staff. I felt bad because for most of the people there they were on "yoga vacation" which is like a way to come see the ways of an Ashram and how it works and decide if you might want to take your yoga practice deeper. For them, this was a terrible experience. I kept explaining to them that I had been in other Ashram settings and they were amazing, even with the same organization. One big thing that seemed to be missing was the guidance of any swamis. There wasn't a single swami at this Ashram, only Chaitanayas (teachers of yoga) and they had apparently let "power" go to their heads. In the end, I decided I didn't want to be a part of this Ashram and finished my time up at the beach. However, I made a lot of new friends at the Ashram, and two of them decided to head to the beach with me!