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(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

Yoga is funny—there you are being all mindful—or at bare minimum focusing on how long you have been in the moment of one particular pose—when something else pops into your mind. Maybe something about moving a certain part of your body brings that thought to surface or maybe it’s just another mystery of how your own mind works.

At the end of Wednesday’s class, I thought I was relaxing into savasana when somehow my mind turned to who I was when I was growing up. Too many heart-chakra opening poses so soon after my recent high school reunion trip must have jogged my brain into thoughts of, well, jogging/running.

And just like that I was mad at running.

Oh, Running, I thought you were The One. My first True Love. I was devoted to you—monogamous. Sure, when I met you, I did so with my teammates at my side. Unlike some of those girls, I never shirked on workouts or pretended I didn’t see the coach’s signal to start. You should have loved them more—with their longer legs and easy breathing—but they would not commit to you as I did.

And when that school year ended, I began taking those baby steps that lead toward what eventually became an obsession. We began to meet almost daily. Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night—nor unrelenting winds that ranged from 95-degree furnace blasts to sub-zero chills that froze my eyelashes together—kept me from my appointments with you.

I wanted more from you—I dreamed of glory but what I got was quiet time and peace in the moment and a chance to hear the thoughts in my own head. As the miles passed beneath my feet, I learned to love the process and how not to focus only on results.

But you turned out to be a fickle lover. You broke my heart with a kind of pain I didn’t expect. I knew the pain of working hard and strengthening my body. I knew the pain of keeping moving through all sorts of weather or feeling as if my lungs could not catch air—which was ironically the result of an undetected medical condition that would not be discovered until 13 ½ years after we started together. What I didn’t know was that though my body was designed to keep up with you, it wasn’t necessarily designed well to do so for as many miles as I did without adjustments to how I moved. That pain didn’t exactly make me stop, but it made me understand I couldn’t just all out follow you without possible repercussions. What I did for love was not enough—I had to protect myself by not trusting you with abandon as I first had.

We’ve had that kind of on-again, off-again relationship that friends will warn you about. I don’t expect so much from you anymore. I set boundaries for myself and—mostly—live with them. Though I still have the speed to try to catch you, I’m not ready to push myself just to have another piece of me break again. I see you more as an old friend these days than as the focus of my passion. And that’s mostly OK. That we can still meet is almost good enough—except for during those rare moments when my heart remembers that I thought we could have so much more together.

Maybe if I keep working, one pose at a time, I’ll find the peace that brings me to accept that however many miles you and I get to share, those miles belong to a good-sized portion of the best days of my life—past, present, and future. May all that practice help me to open up to releasing what was in order to make space for whatever is yet to come.

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(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

Mention you go to yoga and many people will say, “I can’t do yoga. I don’t bend well.” Me neither—that’s exactly why I started doing yoga. I’m coming up on ten years of practicing yoga and I’m still not that “bendy” person people believe every yogi is. But that’s OK because becoming “bendy” is really not what doing yoga is about.

Well, then what is it about?

My yoga guru/instructor, Dr. Dennie Dorall, is always reminding us that the purpose of doing yoga is to experience joy.

In yoga class we work on joy, pose by pose, breath by breath. So often that whole notion seems counter-intuitive, especially when not all yoga poses feel joyful and certainly some breaths seem to keep us focused on pain for far too long. In many ways the joy received from yoga is something you can only develop with conditioning: the conditioning of your body, mind, and spirit over time to better receive that joy.

But joy is not a cheap emotion—so often it must be earned by going through sorrow or pain. That’s the sort of resilience that practicing yoga helps build. Breathing into and holding onto a difficult pose when your mind is saying you can’t teaches you that you are possibly capable of so much more than you imagined. At the same time, your emphasis on your body in that challenging moment teaches your mind to tune out the extraneous noise or that which has nothing to do with the present and join to struggle and rest with that body.

By learning to fully be in moments you would not choose for yourself, you gain strength to get through so much of what life throws at you. You celebrate when you discover you can do what you formerly could not—and you keep believing that someday you will be able to do that which today you cannot do. Nonetheless, whether or not you ultimately can or cannot do something, you learn to be fully present in the attempt.

As much as yoga has taught me to how to be more present in the present, it has also taught me not to hold on to the past so much that I miss the new “present” offered to me. For me, being more open to receiving joy has taught me to put aside a focus on regrets on certain losses outside my control.

In this past Wednesday’s yoga class, Dr. Dennie asked us for a word for that day and then challenged us—each in his or her way—to share that word with others. My assignment? To tell you all about joy.

That day I could have felt frustrated or even a little angry about the time lost to my recent illness, but instead I woke up happy that I got to do all the ordinary activities I had to miss last week—and that I wasn’t too tired to enjoy them either.

On an unseasonably warm December day, complete with blue skies and snow-capped mountain views, I could hardly wait to get out for a post-yoga run. I knew it really didn’t matter that I was going to have to take it easy after my hiatus—but I got to go—I just had to tell my number-cruncher side to take a hike and let me enjoy a leisurely jog on a gorgeous day—which it (the number-cruncher side) did and I did, too.

That’s the kind of joy I used to miss out on before I began practicing yoga.

You may associate joy with something seasonal, but I like to think joy is something I can carry out into the world with me throughout the year. However, this time of the year the concept of joy seems to have been misapplied to concepts such as getting or noisiness or busyness—or at the very minimum to some sort of grand emotion we are “supposed” to feel.

True joy is more the sort of thing that allows a young unwed mother to give birth in a barn amongst animals and yet to call herself blessed and to treasure and ponder in her heart all the commotion surrounding this humble birth.

As for me, bending my mind and spirit in yoga has helped me to be more willing to receive that in which I already believed, allowing me to be more open to giving—as well as to receiving.

Practice feeling authentic joy in each moment during this season of waiting for hope to come into this world. Your practice of joy has the power to light up a world desperate to receive both hope and joy.

(c) 2014 Trina Lambert

(c) 2014 Trina Lambert

Do you ever think that if you could just sit down to create and put together a really detailed spreadsheet, then life would be OK? I mean when worries wash over you, do you ever start heading for Excel? All will have to be OK with the world if you can just plug some information and formulas into some slots, hit return, and, voilà, the facts and answers will appear and all will be well? Or maybe this is just me?

Sometimes I like to work with numbers that just are, numbers that are black and unchanging, and, seemingly, nothing more. Find the number, drop it into the cell, and move on. The repetition calms me, lulling me into believing that those boxes can control and keep the data—as well as contain any possible associated messy meanings. A simple click on AutoFit column width and nothing can spill out or hide.

This, my friends, is why I am more than a creative. Somewhere deep inside in me I find comfort in putting things into boxes—except that with my ability to see shades of gray, things often escape from those boxes, despite my best efforts.

Though I am not enough of a nerd to assign emotions to particular numbers (trust me—my son can personify numbers in a manner far beyond my comprehension), deep down I realize that numbers can bring out emotions. If those supposedly black numbers take a turn into the red, my rational mind can become quite overwhelmed, especially when those numbers are personal to me. And sometimes, I know or discover that those numbers are not even as certain as I might like to believe.

Still, on a good day, I can give into the Zen of the spreadsheet and forget what significance lies in the big picture of totals, projections, associations, or anything beyond the next cell. In those times I am simply creating order out of chaos, recording history, and sticking with just the facts, ma’am.

so much depends
upon

black roman
numerals

inserted with taps and
clicks

inside white columns and
rows.

(With apologies to William Carlos Williams and his “The Red Wheelbarrow” poem.)

(c) 2013 Trina Lambert

(c) 2013 Trina Lambert

Sometimes I have to remind myself that the destination isn’t the only thing that counts. When you are young, you think “When I am five, I can go to school,” “When I am in high school . . .”, “When I get out on my own . . .” and on and on. The problem is it becomes so easy to keep thinking this way even though you long ago stopped being young at all.

So far true mindfulness has evaded me in many situations. When I run, I can’t always focus on body sensing or my breathing. In fact, one of the best parts of running for me is how my mind often takes off on its own journey—which is definitely better than thinking about what may hurt or what I have left to run. Not very mindful I know, but that mind journey is part of most running journeys for me.

On the other hand, when I am doing ZUMBA or dancing, I am just dancing, hearing the beats of the particular song playing. When I was dancing as if I didn’t know my age at my nephew’s wedding in February, I did allow myself to think—briefly—about how old I felt the morning after dancing at another nephew’s wedding in November, but then thought, “What the heck?” My feet prefer the muscle memory of the moment, not the muscle memory of the mornings after–and so I danced on.

In every thing—little or big—that we do, there’s always this tension between journey and destination. For the chores we must do, it’s easy to think that just getting done is what matters, but when we do so, we lose the meditative benefits that can come from doing repetitive movements. In fact, I tend to tempt myself into doing these chores by listening to books or music—which is fine from time to time. But there can also be something very Zen-like about hearing the whir of the wheels as you push the manual lawnmower through the grass and smelling the perfume from the blades of grass now opened to the air.

Moments of flow do not happen when we are focused on the end to the detriment of what is happening around us. They happen when we are just where we are, one minute to the next.

You’re on a journey—don’t miss it while looking for the exit. Too soon, the exit comes for all of us.

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