Changing Your Patterns

This is not me. This is a pose I’ve been working up to for 2 years but haven’t nailed yet.

Yoga has always been challenging for me, but it just got really hard. I’m pissed ’cause I had a feeling it would be like this, but I still feel like this snuck up on me: YOGA GETS HARDER THE LONGER YOU PRACTICE IT, NOT EASIER.

I’ve been having wrist pain in my right wrist for the past few months, chalking it up to lugging around a really heavy steel-frame bike. It turns out the reason my wrist is hurting is because I haven’t been engaging and activating my forearms and biceps properly in weight-bearing poses. Not distributing the weight correctly through my palms and fingers has set me up to experience searing pain in two specific poses, one of which we do about every two minutes in a regular Vinyasa class. Searing pain 45 times each 90-minute class, four or five times a week. Nope, I’m not about that life.

Just as you have an arch in your foot (I say YOU specifically because *I* have very flat arches and this is another problem we won’t even get into right now), you should have a teeny “diamond” of an arch visible in the heel of your hand when you’re moving through plank pose down into chaturanga, and in all weight-bearing poses (like Downward Dog, side plank, etc. etc.).

I DON’T HAVE HAND DIAMONDS! I’VE NEVER HAD HAND DIAMONDS WAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH.

Anyway, doe. This is causing some PTSD-type attitude in me because the first year of my serious ballet training was spent with a shitty teacher who never corrected sickled feet or talked about how to activate your inner thigh muscles vs the top of the thigh. I was nine years old, and these are hard things  to teach yourself at age nine. When I transferred to an excellent dance school in 5th grade, I had to re-learn foundational aspects of dance which was fine BUT my anatomy was jacked up because I now had weak ankles and overdeveloped top thigh muscles.

This feels like the same thing. (My teacher assures me he got over the same injury in three months. And now I have yoga homework. Bah!) While my teachers are EXCELLENT and have always expressed verbally how to distribute weight in the hands, this is a hard thing to learn. It’s also a subtle thing that’s hard to catch as a teacher unless you’re maybe laying underneath your student on your stomach watching the backs of her hands (totally inappropriate unless you do some type of yoga I haven’t found yet). As you might expect, activating your forearms and biceps takes weight and pressure out of your delicate wrists while bringing more stability and balance to every position where you need your hands.

At the end of our one-on-one practice last week, my teacher said: “Here’s to putting in the work to change our patterns.”

AH-HA. There it is. Yoga is just like any other area of my life. If I want to kick ass or move past some personal wall I have up, I have to bust through whatever is holding me back and then put in the hours to develop and live a new mindset. A mindset is a pattern.

It’s weird how much my yoga practice parallels my life, or teaches me about my life. A pattern becomes a pattern by putting in the time to etch those grooves in the rock. Alleviating the pressure you feel in certain areas of your life brings balance to the whole. You can’t hold a pose balancing your entire body’s weight on your forearms if you aren’t using the arm muscles right. I can’t get a different result interacting with the same person if we’re both living the same tired patterns we’ve been zombie walking for years.

“Here’s to putting in the work to change our patterns.”

Photo Credit

Life is only possible in insecurity.

Lotus

Life is only possible in insecurity.

This is something that is very fundamental to be understood: life in its very essence is insecurity. While you are protecting yourself, you are destroying your very life.

Protection is death, because only those who are dead in their graves are absolutely protected. Nobody can harm them, nothing can go wrong for them. There is no longer any death for them – all that has happened. Now nothing is going to happen.

Do you want the security of a graveyard?  Unknowingly that’s what everybody is trying to do. Different are their ways, but the goal is the same. By money, by power, by prestige, by social conformity, by belonging to a herd – religious, political – by being part of a family, a nation, what are you seeking? Just as an unknown fear surrounds you, and you start creating as many barriers as possible between you and the fear. But those same barriers are going to prevent you from living.

From The Great Zen Master Ta Hui: Reflections on the Transformation of an Intellectual to Enlightenment by Osho (Chapter 35, available here).

Photo credit: Venkataramesh Kommoju on Flickr

Good Reads 2013

Books

Photo credit: Henry on Flickr

I’ve been reading as much as possible the past few months, simply because I’ve missed making time for learning about bigger topics and exploring themes from new angles. It doesn’t hurt that I’ve had Essay Club and also quite a few plane rides, i.e. excuses to turn off the webernets.

Things I’ve been thinking, reading and writing about:
• Rapid cognition, i.e. snap judgements and the science behind them. What makes someone great at sizing up situations and people quickly and correctly? Is it possible to train myself to be better at this?
• Mentorship
• Vulnerability
• How and why do women and men behave and think differently in the workplace, and how can we better equip both sexes for success?
• Meditation

I’m sure we could have a fascinating chat over coffee about how these themes are all interrelated in my head; this is a work in progress. Maybe I’ll write about it here again as I tie things together and unravel them again. In the meantime, here are some excerpts from some really good books I’ve read in the past six months.

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell

In my favorite chapter, which revolves around the decision-making process of USMC Lieutenant General Paul Van Riper, Gladwell quotes Riper as saying: “You disaggregate everything and tear it apart, but you are never able to synthesize the whole. It’s like the weather. A commander does not need to know the barometric pressure or the winds or even the temperature. He needs to know the forecast. If you get too caught up in the production of information, you drown in the data.”

The crux of the entire book for me is here: “The key to good decision making is not knowledge. On straightforward choices, deliberate analysis is best. When questions of analysis and personal choice start to get complicated—when we have to juggle many different variables—then our unconscious thought processes may be superior.

It seems that the father of the unconscious [Sigmund Freud] agreed: ‘When making a decision of minor importance, I have always found it advantageous to consider all the pros and cons. In vital matters, however, such as the choice of a mate or a profession, the decision should come from the unconscious, from somewhere within ourselves.’”

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg

On Mentorship: “We need to stop telling them, ‘Get a mentor and you will excel.’ Instead, we need to tell them, ‘Excel and you will get a mentor.’”

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Friday Links: Stay on the F*ing Bus and Other Good Ideas

Happy Friday! Are you ready for the weekend?

hayyyyy

Before we get to all that, though, srsly: I’ve come across five provocative links on running a business and on how to nurture and pollinate ideas over the past few weeks and wanted to share.

What have you read recently that’s resonated? I’d love to see your fave recent links in the comments.

Top 5 Links!

On Business:

Photo credit dierken on Flickr.

Photo credit dierken on Flickr.

Dear Startup CEOs written by Wiley Cerilli for the First Round Capital blog.  Cerilli is founder and CEO of SinglePlatform (acquired by Constant Contact in 2012). I heard him speak at a food tech conference a couple months ago, and his post recaps my favorite points of his talk.

See:

  • Hire people with positive outlooks, negativity is viral and it only takes one person to turn a team upside down.
  • “Be so good they can’t ignore you.” – Steve Martin
  • And my VERY FAVORITE — all you have to do is look at the tagline of my site to see how important this quote is to me: “A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.” – George S. Patton
Photo credit nikolajnewyork on Flickr.

Photo credit nikolajnewyork on Flickr.

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Grapefruit Marges and Other Gifts

I just finished reading a book that multiple friends have been asking me to read for a couple years: The Five Love Languages.

While trying to figure out what my own “love language” is, I’ve been trying to remember what I do to make myself feel loved and cared for (beyond the priorities of sleep, working out, a healthy way of eating and a clean/organized home).

It turns out that my love language is gifts, and I do buy myself gifts when I’m feeling blue, ecstatically happy, celebrating closing a deal or feeling stressed out. And we’re not talking “retail therapy.” I don’t go bonkers on clothes and shoes (though I’d have such a great wardrobe if I did).

No, I either buy myself flowers or take myself out to a special meal or get stuff to make a great dinner and cocktails at home.

Tonight, I made a beehive to the fancy local grocer and picked up some ingredients to make grapefruit margaritas and a bleu cheese, walnut and mushroom tart.

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How do you take care of yourself? Do you have any rituals that are sure to cheer you up or make you happy?

The Sweet Potato and the Flexible Heart

Saturday morning with Jordan is my one can’t-break commitment with myself. I take Jordan’s 90-minute yoga class in TriBeCa whenever I’m not traveling. I go as much for the stories he tells during the first 15 minutes as for the workout that follows.

refocus

Photo credit: j / f / photos on Flickr

After his story today, he took us into practice by asking the usual question: “Please let me know if anyone has any injuries or physical issues I can help you with.”

For once, I wanted to pipe up and say, “I have an emotional injury.” I’m going through a rough transition in my life right now and I have some emotional work to do. That’s the stuff I address through yoga. I get on the mat, put my hands on the ground and give my mind the space it needs to wrap around my life. To process.

After seven months of regular yoga (and that after a decade of trying to find a type of yoga I enjoyed), I feel less angry when I didn’t even know I was angry to begin with. I have less stress but also more clarity about areas of my life that have to change.

Jordan shared with us about his time rooting around yesterday on his farm upstate where he’s been growing all manner of vegetables: carrots, beets, squash and tomatoes. With all of those, a farmer can see evidence of their labor as the hints of the vegetable push through the dirt or blossom on the vine.

After almost 100 days in the ground, his sweet potatoes still showed no sign of progress. He’d never grown potatoes before and admitted the sweet potato patch was the hairiest. Snakes and frogs had taken up residence in the overgrowth. Yesterday, he decided to just dig in and root around to see if he could feel anything.

From my yoga mat at my favorite spot in the front right-hand corner of the room, I watched as he reached behind his back and then held up the largest sweet potato I’ve ever seen. He harvested about half the patch yesterday and pulled up 60 sweet potatoes.

He drew for us a parallel between growing potatoes and our yoga practice. One can do yoga for months or years without seeing the real fruits of the work. Sure, your butt might get a little boost and you might feel more flexible.

However, (at least for me) the real results of the daily practice are the feeling of honoring a personal ritual, finding my center and feeling more calm and patient. One may practice for a long spell before feeling and seeing this inward work show itself in our day-to-day lives.

So, I’ll keep practicing. Yoga isn’t all about having a flexible body. It’s also about having a flexible and resilient heart.

Take Me: Street Art in Brooklyn

This is a series of posters plastered on the blocks surrounding Fort Greene Park in my neighborhood (Fort Greene, Brooklyn).

I saw them on an early evening walk tonight. There were at least five more versions, but these were my favorites.

“Take me: Being with you and not being with you is the only way I have to measure my time.”

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“Take me: Neither you nor I are ready to meet.”

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“Take me: The first time I didn’t know you. The second time I did.”

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