Finding My Zen

Earlier this year I did something I’ve always wanted to do in a place I’ve never been: a yoga retreat in  Costa Rica! I was so thrilled to go for a number of reasons.

  1. I had never traveled to an exotic, rain forest-y place before and had been longing to do it. My sister went once, years ago, and told me how beautiful and amazing it was to zip line through the tall, tropical trees, spotting monkeys here and there. So, yeah, monkeys.
  2. I know a lot of people who have done yoga retreats and they seem to be stress-free for years on their return. Everything about them screams ‘At peace with myself’ when they return and I was needing that in the worst way.
  3. 99.9% of my trips out of town are for/with family and sometimes work. Yes, I go to Mexico every year. Yes, I go to California multiple times a year. These trips are great, they really are, but they are to the same place in a very comfortable setting. It was time I acted like a 32 year old and went somewhere new and different. This is not to say that I’ve ever had a bad time with my family, just a bit lackluster.
  4. Yoga is a newer hobby/passion/exercise/practice for me that 10 years ago I would have excelled at, but over time, my body is not as flexible. I like to be good at the things I enjoy doing. Two, 2-hour classes a day seemed like the best, most efficient way to improve.
  5. Also, I was in desperate need to clear my head and find my happy place again. Someone close to me had been dealing with addiction and I was letting it affect me and take me to some really dark, terrible places. I had lost my Zen, my patience, my sanity, and I really wanted it all back.
Costa Rica Travel

Heading to Costa Rica!

The trip was amazing and fulfilled everything I was hoping it would. The RAINFOREST is absolutely stunning. Just the exotic sounds constantly coming from it was enough to make me catch my breath frequently. The cicadas were doing their annual noise making, pretty much drowning out any attempt at conversation three times a day. You could set your clock to their schedule. And we did during our yoga practice. By the time we settled into Savasana the bug’s song would be going at full-volume, creating an intense aural pattern that deepened my meditation.

Yoga-ing in the jungle

Yoga-ing in the jungle

When I wasn’t doing yoga or resting in my tent, I was checking out the other amazing things to do in the area. The first adventure we went on was a hike not far from where we were staying. It was guided by one of the gardeners at the retreat and he pointed out flowers and small animals for us. One of my favorites was a blue shrimp in the freshwater stream.

Blue Shrimp in Costa Rica

It was humid and hot, but gorgeous and green. There was a very refreshing waterfall at the end of the trip too.

Waterfall in Costa Rica

Photographer Kristen Cheatwood was kind enough to capture us all in this heaven.

I did end up zip lining, which was so scary, but beautiful. I would like to go again because I was focusing so hard on not scaring myself or running into the poor guy waiting for me, that I didn’t have a chance to really enjoy my surroundings. Being so high up in the trees though, that was an emotion in itself. You could feel the movement of the giants as we each landed on the platforms and hear so many different, unfamiliar sounds around us. The family who owned and operated company was wonderful. Each guy was incredibly nice and obviously loved what they did, and where they lived.

Costa Rica Zip Line

Me being so dainty while zip lining.

The last, & most terrifying, take-off platform.

The last, & most terrifying, take-off platform.

The other adventure I went on was probably my favorite. Four of us went horse back riding up a trail into the jungle where our guide pointed out the super-cool Golden Orb Spider, so named for making beautiful golden webs that can be used to make Kevlar material. To prove it, our guide took a little bit of web, spun it a bit, and had us try to tear through the string. It was impossible. We also saw toucans and a very sleepy monkey hanging in trees. At the end of the trail was a beautiful, secluded waterfall that we had to take a dip in.

Waterfall

Perfect to cool off

My friend Val, a fantastic architect out of Tucson, was kind enough to pose for me.

ValWaterfall

Tree in a Waterfall

After the hike, we took the horses through a field with those beautiful white, soft-looking cows that you see in these parts of the world. This guy was very curious about my horse Colibri and I.

CostaCow

And moo are you?

We ended the ride by galloping on the beach, just like the movies, or a cheesy cliche. It was amazing.

OntheBeach

That’s my way-too-excited face.

That day, I skipped the afternoon yoga class while Kristin {photographer extraordinaire} and I hung out at the little cantina and learned more about the locale. I felt more alive and empowered that day than I had in a long time. I was nervous about the horse back riding because of the galloping that I knew was coming. But I did it, and I did it very well, and I couldn’t have been more proud of myself.

There were only two more days of this amazing trip, and they were equally eye opening and special. I spent time in town with an old friend and we talked about everything, and that night I welcomed the evening yoga class to focus inwardly. Dinner was delicious as usual, and the evening was left for us all to talk about our wonderful experiences, what we had learned and what the future held for us.

CostaDinenr

The dining room

The trip home was long and arduous, as it always is when traveling to and from Sun Valley, but it gave me time to reflect on what I had learned and experienced, and how I wanted to live my life from that moment on. I still do yoga, when I can, and have recently gotten back into CrossFit. I try to not let the little things get to me and to not judge others so harshly.

My life is still complicated, but thankfully not nearly as much as before this life-changing trip. Knowing that I have the ability to find calm and peace in the chaos that can be around me makes life that much easier. Namaste bitches, and thank you Beth, Patrick & Carling for the unforgettable experience.

Today, Tomorrow & the Day After

a. an act of concentrating interest or activity on something
b. pay particular attention to
c. concentrate

These are a few definitions of ‘Focus’ and I need to work on doing just that, especially at my job, at which I’m obviously currently not focusing.

It’s not just at work that my mind easily and frequently wanders, it’s whenever I’m doing anything ever and unless you experience this as well, I can’t tell you how frustrating it is. I literally forget what I’m thinking mid-thought because all of a sudden, something else – an idea, a to-do, groceries, etc. – will take over and usually only for about a second. But that second’s enough to throw my train of thought into a tizzy.

Don’t jump to the ADD/ADHD conclusion, I’m pretty positive that isn’t what my problem is. That’s not to say that I have any idea of what my problem is or if I even have a problem. I could just have a very active mind. I could be eating the wrong foods. I could tend to keep too many things and ideas organized in my head. I do know that I’m easily distracted, and it’s not fun.

This Monday {and tomorrow, and the day after}, I aim to stay focused and concentrate on paring down my ridiculously long list of to-do’s and articles to read. It will be a challenge, but the plan is to stay on track.

Stay On Track, Stay Focused

I’m sure I’m not the only person who experiences this. Any suggestions, feedback and stories are welcome, and encouraged.

Refreshing Mondays

Mondays. Ugh. No one likes Mondays, especially Garfield.

Garfield hates Mondays

They represent going to work and the beginning of the rut that as adults, we’ve seem to found ourselves stuck in ~ work, home, work, home, etc. I’m guilty of trudging into the office, barely awake and grunting responses until the early afternoon when the Monday-pain goes away. Lately though, I’ve been changing my Monday-tude and have realized that actually, there can be Refreshing Mondays.

Sundays are typically my last hangover day of the weekend {which isn’t nearly long enough, by the way} but I was starting to get mighty tired of wasting an entire day, so now, they are catch up days. Whatever hasn’t been finished throughout the week gets worked on during this ‘day of rest’. I’ve decided to make Mondays my Things-to-Focus-on-for-the-Week to get me more excited about the dreaded day and impending work week.

This week my focus will be on:
• Practicing yoga handstands to get me ready for the Yoga Retreat in Costa Rica I’ll be attending next month. Patrick Beach is the expert on handstands and will also be one of the teachers. I’ll be starting with his helpful videos.
• Cleaning up after myself. I have always been a slob in the sense that I leave things strewn about the house, but I really do hate having dirty dishes on the counter. For the last few years I’ve been making much more of an effort to tidy up as I go, but it’s been quite the struggle. I’ll be focusing on folding my laundry and organizing my closet to put it away. It can be even more of an endeavor as my boyfriend is still in the ‘messy’ stage of his life, but I’m sure he’ll grow out of it someday. :)
• Another activity that takes up a lot of my time is preparing food ahead of time for the week. My work, The Picket Fence, has joined the Y’s Corporate Challenge this year and I’ve been doing pretty well as far as food is concerned. With all my experiences in Paleo challenges, it’s been very easy for me to keep my meals healthy and mostly grain-free but the time putting these meals together is ridiculous, especially now that I’m working 2 jobs. Today I will create a menu for the week, purchase any ingredients I need, and prep as much as possible. This is an all-day endeavor as it’s my only day off this week.

The list is short, but intense. I use Todoist.com and app to help keep me on track. It’s a free online program that is cloud-based, so every change you make is updated on every platform. You can prioritize, create custom labels/tags, have reminders, sync with your calendar – everything you need to be efficient. I ♥ this technology so much!

Anywho, wish me luck on my first official Refreshing Monday!

Refreshing Monday

Setting My Intentions

In the first half of almost any yoga class, the instructor asks the class to set their intentions of their practice for the day. I’ve always let that part of class go one in ear and out the other, throwing it out to the Universe if anything. What do I need to set an intention for? I’m just there to stretch and take a nap at the end {thank you Corpse Pose}.

But the other day at Gather Yoga Studio, I realized I had an intention to set.

First, what is an intention? It is not a goal. According to YogaJournal, a goal is an attainable thing, act or outcome. I have plenty of goals that I have set and some that I’ve even accomplished! {Sorry laundry, you ain’t one of them.} When you set your intention, you are

setting a path or practice that is focused on how you are being in the present moment.

I didn’t even realize I didn’t know exactly what this meant while I was sitting in the cross-legged position at the beginning of class. The understanding of this simple practice came to me immediately and naturally. Like a light bulb going on in my head, I knew at once what my intention was that day and the rest of my days until I felt it had been set completely: my intention was {and still is} to heal myself inside and out. I made a

commitment to align [my] worldly actions with [my] inner values.

For sometime I have been feeling physically, emotionally and spiritually toxic. There have been personal issues in my life that have affected me negatively which in turn have made me into a negative person. I don’t like being a negative person. I can’t be supportive. I can’t be understanding. I can’t be fair to others or myself. And I imagine I can’t be very fun to be around.

Rather than send my intention to the Universe, I kept it for myself that day. I am not focusing so much on how I attain my intention, but rather focusing on when to change my negativity as I feel it coming on. This practice also helps to stay in the present which is important to me as I intend to heal myself inside and out.

Thank you Universe for showing me the meaning of setting my intention.

yoga

A New Year, A New Me

I am not an easy person to get along with, for the most part. I am quick to judge, I am brutally honest, I can be a complete hypocrite, I tend to flake out on friends, I can be super lazy and do things half-assed, and, as some of my family members know, I have the biggest mouth.

These aren’t things I’m not already familiar with, and I have always had excuses for all of this behavior:
Some of the people I judged the harshest soon proved me wrong and became my best friends.
I would want someone to tell me if I was making poor decisions.
I know I shouldn’t be doing this after telling her she shouldn’t, but I don’t have a problem.

My friends have flaked out on me plenty of times, so I don’t feel bad for flaking out on them.
Who doesn’t enjoy a day lounging on the couch, binging on Sherlock?

I don’t understand why she’s mad at me, I don’t care who knows all my personal stuff.

Bullshit, isn’t it?

I’ve burned many bridges and hurt a lot of people I valued as friends with this attitude. I abandoned people in their time of need. I kept myself in a dark corner and then became angry if I wasn’t included in what was going on around me, that people hadn’t sought ME out. I would take every little slight personally, thinking that ‘they’re just assholes, what have I ever done to them’. I guess thought I was hot shit.

I first realized I was this way when I was in my early 20s {32 year old here} and it came as quite a surprise to me, after analyzing my attitudes, that I was exactly like someone I didn’t want to be. Someone I had known my entire life, who I had seen ruin relationship after relationship over something completely trivial things. I knew immediately that I had to change, and I started my transformation.

I worked on it very hard for years.
When I found myself starting to think that someone didn’t like me because I wasn’t invited to a party they had, I would at first be upset, but I would then take a breath and think, ‘When was the last time I reached out to them? They may just think I’m busy or unavailable.’.
If I realized I was talking shit about someone, for absolutely NO good reason, just because they may have rubbed me the wrong way, I would stop and ask myself, ‘What did they do to me? And does it really merit all this hatred I’m feeling?’.
I remember more than once someone would have to chide me for repeating something they had told me in confidence, and rather than look at it from their perspective and apologize, I would think how silly they were being, that everyone had issues and why should they be embarrassed? Soon I began to bite my tongue, keeping secrets closely guarded, trying to rebuild the trusts I had broken.
I started to create goals for myself at work and in health that I wanted to reach, and succeed in accomplishing. And I was taking steps to reach those objectives.

Then in the last year, a lot of anger began to build up in me again. It started off as confusion, hurt and sadness. And when I tried to make sense of it, I couldn’t. No amount of self-analyzation helped. I felt as though I was being kept in the dark about a lot of things happening around me and that those close to me were keeping things from me. I could’ve sworn that people were laughing and pointing at me from behind my back. Nothing I told myself helped alleviate these incredibly negative feelings. Over time, the sadness and confusion blossomed into an anger nothing short of rage, and incredible meanness. I was saying and doing things deliberately to hurt those close to me.

I found myself judging people I had never even met, and talking shit about them, not caring if they found out. I started drinking a lot, to the point of being black-out drunk and becoming an emotional wreck by the end of the night and making a complete, and utter fool of myself. It didn’t matter. It’s not like I was the only one with a horror story after a night on the town. And my life was shit anyways, what did it possibly matter?

This anger and hatred escalated quickly over time. I became verbally abusive to the one person closest to me, often trying to make them feel terrible about themselves. Then one night, I actually hit someone, someone that I love more than anything. The shame I felt {still feel}. . . I can’t even describe it. Something had to change, had to happen. How much further down could I go from there? I could potentially lose everyone around me, lose my job, my home, my dogs – my sense of self. I could become completely and utterly alone and the scariest thing is that I wasn’t that far from that happening. It was just around the corner.

Depression set in. It was visible physically and emotionally. My skin started to break out. I had huge bags under my eyes from not getting good sleep for months. I was so tense that I was getting terrible headaches. I was snapping at people for no reason, pushing them away. I soon {and very recently} realized the worst thing – this was exactly how I felt as an angry, out of control teenager. This was the person I had been striving so hard to NOT be, had grown so far away from over the last 8 or so years. And I let it happen in no time at all.

Up until about 1 week ago, I hated myself. I hated my super-sensitivity. I hated my unwarranted anger towards people. I hated letting my emotions fly out of control. I hated who I had become.

But I can change that, I need change that. I’m not making this decision to go back to working to better myself because it’s a new year. That doesn’t matter. 2014 is nothing but a calendar date. I’m doing this because I reached a low point in my life, one of the lowest, and I am scared I am going to do something harmful to myself, or those around me.

I will stop hating myself
I will stop hating others
I will stop being jealous of other people’s lives
I will stop judging others
I will see things from your perspective
I will be understanding
I will practice patience
I will open myself to new possibilities
I will rebuild the bridges I have burned
I will cherish everyone in my life
I will keep my promises
I will smile more
I will treat everyone around me the way I want to be treated
I will keep in mind other people’s bad days
I will stop taking things personally
I will remember that I am loved
I will stop losing people over trivial things
I will keep your secrets & earn  your trust
I will be a better person for me & for you
I will love more

Hope

The Benefits of Practicing Yoga from the Moment You Leave Class

Thank you Huffington Post for all of your open-minded, educational and entertaining articles, and thank you especially for this easy-to-read infographic touting the benefits of yoga, from beginning to end.

I’m still a proponent for CrossFit in terms of strengthening muscles {which ladies, you MUST do to prevent osteoporosis in your Golden Years!}. I find that including yoga in my exercise regiment {which,  to be completely honest, has been absolutely nothing for the last 2 weeks} improves my performance at the CF gym.


yoga infographic

What do you think about Yoga? Are you practically a yogi master or a young novice? I’m on the novice spectrum but will be attending this AMAZING Costa Rica Yoga Retreat with Yogi Master Beth Stuart to strengthen my practice. And to go to effing Costa Rica of course!