Thursday, July 16, 2015

Learn to Fly

We spent some time recently in our home away from home. We headed down I-81 and found our way to The Smokies. This trip was different for us because each of the boys had a friend along for the fun. The friends needed to get the full Townsend and Smokies experience so we did more of the touristy thing than we usually do when it is just us and family.

One touristy highlight was a trip to the not so peaceful side of the Smokies...Pigeon Forge. Generally, we avoid PForge, as we like to call it, because it is so commercialized and every square foot is filled with all manner of tourist trap imaginable. But we had these friends with us that really needed to see it. So off to PForge it was.

First stop was indoor skydiving at Flyaway. My boys have done this a few times before and my husband and I have done it once. Let me state that I would never actually skydive as in the type where you jump from a plane. I have a healthy fear of heights and and even healthier fear of falling. So real skydiving is not an option for me. My husband has actually leapt from a plane once. He said once was enough.

The indoor variety of skydiving keeps the best parts of the real thing while removing the scary, life flashing before your eyes, I'm gonna die experience that is jumping from a plane. That is my perspective of course. Adrenaline junkies would disagree. Indoor skydiving gives the weenies like me the chance to experience the best parts: flying in the air, maneuvering in space and wearing a squirrel suit, all done in the safety of a giant padded wind tunnel.

Everyone was game so we signed the waivers. There was some mention of risk of injury and death but I suspect that would only happen in the event of an unexpected fan malfunction which might unfortunately coincide with a breach in the net floor. Those two events couldn't possibly happen at the same time, right?

So we got the kids suited up with ear plugs, goggles, helmet, closed toed shoes, gloves and squirrel suit. Thumbs up and ready to fly. All suited up, they sort of look like a band of ragtag Power Ranger knockoffs. Or Teletubbie prototypes that didn't quite make the cut.

Once in the wind tunnel, they became fearless and airborne. The instructors are twenty-somethings who probably jump out of real planes and they start off your session with a few tricks. It takes time and practice to be able to control your body they way they do. They make it look so effortless.

I can't really describe the experience with words so I'll just share this video. It's the best way to learn to fly.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

A Simply Charmed Mother's Day

Today is Mother's Day. Some moms say they want time alone, a spa day, a fancy meal prepared by someone else or otherwise to be pampered. I like all those things too but I feel so spoiled in my life as it is, that those things are not what I really want on Mother's Day. Not that I am pampered with regular spa visits (truthfully I never do the spa thing) or that someone else makes our meals on a routine basis unless you count the nice people at Moe's and Chipotle (and I do count them), but our meals are rarely fancy. I have a pretty regular life but I feel very charmed in its normalcy.

And as far as alone time, I get plenty. My husband works a lot and my kids are in school and activities that keep everyone busy. I work a few part-time gigs which keep me busy too.  In between, my jobs and volunteering, when everyone else is occupied, I have lots of time running errands, cleaning the house, keeping their lives running, most of which I do alone.  When the boys were young, that was not the case. I do remember the days of wanting time alone, even for five minutes. And I remember the desperation of needing that time. Well, that time finally came. So don't send me away on my own for Mother's Day.

What I really want each Mother's Day is time with my family. I don't even care really what we do as long as I get to be in the same space with my husband and my boys, laughing and talking and sharing an experience. Not time spent preparing for the next activity, not time spent discussing school projects, not time revisiting house rules of internet use and screen time, not time spent planning the boys' lives one permission slip at a time. Just time spent. Time now. This moment with my family.

I woke up to flowers, cards, empty water glasses from last night and the other usual random stuff on the kitchen table. I loved it all.

We have no real plans for rest of the day and it suits me fine. We will likely do what we typically do on a Sunday: relax, work a little around the house and yard, hang out on the porch with the boys, play with the dog, go out somewhere simple for dinner that we all enjoy. A day charmed by the ordinary.

I think those are the Mother's Days my own mother likes best. The only thing better would be if my mom could be here to spend it with me.

I made my mom a special gift this year. Actually, the gift was to both my parents, a handcrafted reminder of the family they created.

The trunk is my parents. My brothers and I are the branches. The dark green leaves are my husband and my brothers' wives. The light green leaves are the "grand" generation, my children and my nieces and a new addition of my nephew-in-law who joined our clan this year.

Our family tree has room to grow. It is weathered by time and seasons. It has branches and leaves that will never experience more growth. But those bare branches are just as significant as the promise of new growth. Our family tree is at once ordinary and unique. What could more simple and beautifully complex than a tree?

Truth be told, I have one of these for myself too. Several versions were scrapped before the final looked just right so I have one of the earlier versions for my own, a handcrafted reminder of the family that made me. I love it all.

Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers in my life!

Monday, April 27, 2015

What I Learned in YTT

Two years ago I started my yoga teacher training (YTT) at Sol Yoga. This past weekend, another YTT class began. Witnessing the start of a new training class made me want to revisit my experiences as a new trainee.

I took the training not to become a yoga teacher but rather to enhance my own personal practice. I assumed that training would help me learn as much as I could about yoga in an efficient way. The YTT curriculum was organized and structured so that I would not have to pick and choose workshops here and there to patchwork together my yoga knowledge if I tried to do it on my own.

In truth, I had considered the YTT a full year before but made myself wait. I wanted to be sure that this was something I really wanted to do and was not just a passing interest or worse, a distraction. The years immediately prior were full of life-altering changes, loss and family crises; I considered that I might not be thinking quite clearly about things. So enrolling in YTT at that time might not be the right thing to do. I needed space and quiet contemplation to make the right decision. So I practiced for another year before making the decision.

My first weekend of YTT was exciting. I felt like the curtain had been pulled back so I could begin to see the mystery that was behind each yoga class. There was something more to those postures and movements that up to that point I had not been privy to. Now, in YTT, the magic would be revealed. It would take eight full training weekends, 200+hours, many books, and countless personal practices, but I would soon know the secrets of yoga.

One of the first exercises on the first night of YTT was to clarify your expectations for the training. Here were mine:

Notice the last sentence..."and to use it off the mat." Off the mat is a big thing in the yoga world. It doesn't mean breaking out into Vrksasana (Tree Pose) in the grocery line every chance you get or upstaging a nine-year-old by showing off your flexibility at her birthday party. Off the mat means taking the knowledge acquired through self-study on the mat and using it in your daily life. On the mat, can you have patience with your body as it learns new patterns of movement and alignment? Off the mat then, can you have similar patience with your children as they learn new things? On the mat, can you honor your limits and be content with what your body can achieve? Off the mat then, can you be content with what is? Paying attention on the mat smooths out the edges when it really matters off the mat.

There is an unending amount of technical knowledge about yoga: asanas (poses), alignment, styles, history, anatomy, breathwork, use of props, specialized yoga for almost every ailment or condition you can think of, the Eight Limbs, the whole world of Ayurveda and the list continues. I learned a bit about all of that in my YTT and still have so much more to learn. The most important thing I learned through my YTT was not a technical aspect but rather something about myself: I wanted to teach yoga. That was not one of my goals at the start. But through the training and through my growth, I came to believe so deeply in the benefits of this practice that I found the need to share it.

So now I teach a few times a week and I take that responsibility very seriously. Teachers create the space in which their students practice and learn. That holds true for yoga teachers, middle school teachers and everything in between. Teachers offer their students tools and experiences for learning and growth opportunities. That may sound lofty for just a yoga class but when you know that yoga is about more than flexibility and forgiving hamstrings, it fits. So next time your yoga instructor offers a moment of mindfulness as you hold Parivrtta Ardha Chandrasana for...e...v...e...r, tuck that bit of perseverance away for a raining day when you need strength and fortitude off the mat. In those moments, stay grounded, breathe, radiate from your core and find some place you can bring in ease. That's the secret of yoga revealed.