The Unexpected Gifts

I’m in Chicago with my family. The last few visits have felt really good on lots of levels. It feels good to be able to show-up and be here for my family and not push this away.
 
Dad Oxygen

My dad getting oxygen during PT. For the first time he let me help him in my capacity as a yoga therapist. Together the three of us helped him with his physical therapy.

The pictures are of my dad, who is dying. I’m here for a week to spend time with him, to help my sister with some of the work, to be present with what is.

 
Yesterday, I helped him reschedule a surgery, cleaned out his fridge, straightened his room (which he won’t let anyone do, but I didn’t ask permission), helped with his PT, met with his social worker and ironed out our understanding of his benefits, made friends with his nurses, whom he has done everything to piss off, and just sat with him.
 
A difficult person throughout his life, it’s not surprising that he has alienated most of the staff at his care facility. He has been labeled a difficult patient. They told me yesterday that they hate having to go to his room. I told them I totally understood, which I do, but it also breaks my heart.
His facility is top-notch, though,  and despite hating it, they do administer to his needs and maybe even in some little way care for him.
 
So my job today is to just sit with him, to make him feel a little less alone in his last months here. And believe me, the person who is benefitting the most is me. To be able to walk my dad to the end is a gift. To be able to be gracious and accommodating to his tirades and pain and discomfort and fear is an honor. 
It is not an honor bestowed by him. It is an honor I bestow upon myself. I am someone who does not want to push away life. I want all the feelings, all the experiences, all the emotions. I want the difficult, the ugly and the bad. Not only because they make the glories and the celebrations so much brighter and sweeter, but because I want the entirety of life. I do not want to look back and regret or wish.
While I am honored by this gift, this privilege, I realize that not everyone gets this. Loved

PT Dad

The man who once weighed 250 pounds and was almost 6 feet tall, seems tiny, weak and frail. 

ones drop dead instantly or are killed in accidents. Not everyone gets the softer, more vulnerable side of their parent. While his comes with bouts of anger, irritability and plain bitchiness, his vulnerability and softness is still a side I don’t know. In our 48-year relationship I am learning new things about him, experiencing him in a different way. That is a gift.

I also am privileged in a way that my sister is not, in a few days, I will fly back to New York. I get that.
 
It is a wonder to me that my rage and hostility towards this man does not fill the hospital room. Somehow, though, I’m able to be present with what is and feel some peace with him. We can sit quietly and watch television. We do not talk about sexual assault or harassment, the president, Roy Moore, Russia or net neutrality. We sit and watch black and white movies and football. We don’t talk that much. Sometimes he tells me about his friends that I haven’t seen since I was a child. I work on my computer. It’s peaceful.
 
Tomorrow, he has surgery and at his age, with his heart, that’s always risky. So, today I’m going to sit with him and then when he gets transferred to the hospital, go with him. THEN, at the end of the day I’m going to have drinks with childhood friends, people that despite not seeing me all that often, know, love and support me. Oh! and people who’ve gone through this too, so they get it.
 
Today, the toolbox is wide open and there are tools scattered on the floor. I am coloring outside the lines to manage my own anxiety and PTSD and stay compassionate and open to him. Despite the difficult history and the past behaviors, this is not about me. My job is to hold space and to bear witness. I will have time to process, but this moment is about allowing myself the freedom to feel love and peace towards someone who may not deserve it. This is my strength and my growth, which will ripple for years to come. 
 
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The Fuck-its Or, Double Fisting on Monday

Happy Monday! I started my social media interaction this morning sounding more bright and cheery than I feel. If you don’t know me personally, or haven’t figured out by my online presence, I’m a pretty happy person. Bubbly, I’ve been told. People think that I’m one of those people who whitewashes my FB feed so my life looks perfect, which is really surprising to me because when I look at my posts I don’t see perfect. At all.

This Monday, I’m not feeling it. I’m not feeling bubbly or even energetic. I’m dragging, I’m sad and I’m feeling a bit….it’s not hopeless, cause that would be bigger than this. I think I have a case of the fuck-its. It’s that place where I feel like I’m the only one who cares about the holidays, so why bother. I just had to postpone my workshops and two of my clients with depression are really struggling, so why bother? The whininess goes on.

It’s a crappy place to be, but I’ll get to the other side. I always do.  The thing about the fuck-its, is that they can lead us to some dangerous places. They can lead us to some pretty destructive behavior.

Getting Quiet

Getting Quiet and finding connection are two great ways to chase the fuck-its away.

So, what do you do? Here’s what I know. Catching the fuck-its as soon as you can identify them and doing something about them is way easier than pulling yourself out of a bottle of gin and another bad-choice-sex-encounter. Catching the fuck-its before you get to hopeless is going to save you a lot of billable hours at your shrink’s office.

I also know that the more aware you are of your ups and downs, the more honest you can be with how you’re feeling body/mind/spirit in any given moment, the easier it’s going to be able to see the fuck-its and move around/through/past them.

Managing the fuck-its means loving yourself and nurturing yourself with self-care. It means doing for yourself first. It’s time to stop putting yourself on the back burner and taking care of everyone before you

So, here’s what I’m doing today. I’ve been on the run for a few weeks and dealing with my dad being hospitalized twice in the last two months, and is on his second acute care facility. I’ve been working long hours, flying a lot, driving to Salem every weekend for four or five weeks. I’m tired. So, today, I’m not juggling. I’m just doing some work and taking it easy. Cause when we’re constantly in multi-=tasking mode our brains get tired. Really tired. When I’m in Lawrence, I have out with friends and drink more often than I normally would, over a shorter period of time.

Double fisting

So, today, I’m double fisting it. I’m having hot, strong, black coffee, cause i love it and it doesn’t feel like morning if I don’t have some. I’m also drinking Gingerade Kombucha, cause I’m probably dehydrated and because living foods helps me bounce back. It helps even when I’m just flying, it’s a super-tonic when I have ALL these things going on at once in my life.

Dehydration makes everything bigger and harder. It makes your physical ailments harder to manage. Pain is worse, tight muscles get tighter, tension gets more tense. Dehydration can be the cause of sleepiness, fogginess, even inappropriate hunger.

I’m sleeping extremely well these days and I’m not someone who likes to or believes in over-sleeping, so I’m letting myself just do it. I’m letting myself just sleep as much as I find prudent. Now, if I were someone who really likes to sleep, who finds sleep a welcome escape, I would do the opposite. Hypersomnia can be a real problem for those of us with depression and anxiety and indulging in too much sleep can be a slippery path.

I’m making sure that I hang out with friends and family a lot., The fuck-its like two options; isolation or hanging out with other people with the fuck-its. That makes the fuck-its sing and dance.

So, for today, I’m double fisting coffee and kombucha at the library. I have two friends I’m waiting to hear from to see if we’ll meet for lunch or a drink later. Until then, I think I’m going home to nap.

 

Want to connect with me more? I’m all over. Join me on Facebook for tips, tools, skills to make your life more manageable with mindfulness and yoga. Work with me one-on-one. See my travels, cooking and eating on Instagram or see what I’m thinking on Twitter, search A Yogi Kitchen for either @BreatheBostonNY or @BreatheLawrence. Looking forward to getting to know you better! 

 

 

 

 

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What is BreatheOnline?

This post is from a few weeks ago. I’m working with everyone who signed up for this course privately. It’s just the way it worked out. So, there’s no group class happening currently. The next course starts January 21st.

In 2018 prices are going up, cause they haven’t in quite a few years, but you can catch BreatheOnline at the 2015 price for another two weeks. Sign up by December 1st for just $150. Check out the video and description on the website and read more here to learn about BreatheOnline! 

 

I’ve been teaching in some way or other for most of my life. Speaking in front of groups comes fairly easily to me. I’ve taught art for grade school, pre-school, yoga for pre-schoolers, teenagers and adults and I’ve even taught a few cooking classes.

I started teaching online last year.and have enjoyed it in a very different way than teaching face to face. It poses so many interesting challenges and I love to problem solve.

BreatheOnFBNov

So, it was a little surprising when I decided to record on Anchor this morning about what BreatheOnline is and what it isn’t.

Okay, if you haven’t heard yet, over the weekend I discovered this great new app called Anchorfm. It’s basically like SnapChat for sound. Starting Monday (yesterday) I started recording morning check-ins and this morning I went to record answers to the questions  that my clients and students have been asking about BreatheOnline.

I am not someone who has trouble talking. I’m actually more shy than people think, but I’m the quiet kind of shy. I’m the say too much kind of shy. I don’t often have trouble talking.

I had a little trouble describing what BreatheOnline is and what it isn’t. What? that seems ridiculous right?

And then I recognized a core issue for me. What I write about BreatheOnline and how I talk about BreatheOnline are two different things! This course starts on Sunday November 12th! I’ve taught it before! How can this be?

So, I did a lot of work last night and this morning getting quiet and really working on streamlining what BreatheOnline is and isn’t. I think the issue is that I want to be everything to everyone, so I never rule anything out and it’s exhausting trying to cover everything.

So, what is BreatheOnline? Head over to Anchor.fm and find out. Also, join me Monday, Wednesday and Friday forMorning Meditation, which will be check-ins for the next six weeks.

Check-ins are a great way to grow your awareness of what is and set intention. It’s also a great tool for feeling connected, body/mind/spriit. Feeling that connection and being mindful in the moment is the core of BreatheOnline.

We’re starting Sunday November 12th. Yes! That’s in five days. All you need is a journal and an open mind and open heart. You don’t even need a yoga mat! Join me!

 

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Welcome to BreatheEcourse

Hello and welcome to BreatheEcourse!

I’m so honored that you’re joining me next week, and if you’re not, I hope you’ll consider it!

Thank you for your interest, your support and for choosing to look at your mental health in a new way. Implementing these skills and tools into my life has changed my anxiety and PTSD. I still struggle at times, but for the most part my life is manageable and even enjoyable. Most days I feel pretty grateful to have the life that I have and know that whatever comes up, I’ll be able to handle it.  That’s a lot different than it used to be.

Starting October 22nd we’ll be spending 7 days together. What that looks like is completely up to you. What I will do is send you emails daily with a core Breathe concept to bring some ease to your life. I’ll talk about a tool or skill that helps me. In the secret FB group, I’ll share my own experience of how the skill or tool works in my life.

I can’t promise you that everything is going to be shiny-happy right away, but I can promise you that these tools will help you shift your thinking and your mood, at least temporarily. I can teach you how to stop a panic attack, sleep better and start to feel a little lightness. I can show you that, but it will still be up to you to utilize the tools and skills. That’s the rub, isn’t it? To manage our anxiety, depression and/or PTSD we have to show up and do what we know how to do, Every Single Time. Cause it can spiral down incredibly fast, right?

Okay, so what will you need next week?

I always start BreatheEcourse and BreatheOnline with Let’s Get Clear and actually, you can start thinking about this now. Let’s Get Clear is about really being honest with ourselves about how anxiety, depression and/or PTSD is affecting us. Is your anxiety making you feel an overpowering need for control? Is that manifesting in skipped meals, washing hands, bullying your partner? Tough questions, but if you’re like me you don’t want to kid yourself anymore. You are ready for some brutal honesty, cause whether you do the work with me or with a therapist or in a group, brutal honestly is imperative. Aren’t you tired of trying to trick yourself? I absolutely am.

So, think about that. In addition, consider your time commitment over the next week. How important is managing your mental health to you right now? Are you really struggling? Or is life humming along okay and this is just a way to add some tools to your toolbox?

How fast do you want to make some changes? I’m a rip-the-bandaid-off kinda woman. I would rather put my life on hold for a bit and jump into healing with both feet so I can feel better fast, than take baby steps. Having said that, there’ve been plenty of times when I’ve had to do a little bit often. Feeling better is not where I like to do that.

First, you’ll need a journal to record all these honesty thoughts, take notes and just be present during the week. 

You can use absolutely anything you like.  It can be a notebook from the dollar store or a fancy leather bound journal. It can be your everyday journal or something new that you buy just for the week, or just for recording thoughts and feelings around your mental health. Whatever works for you is perfect. The only thing that I ask is that it be bound in some way, not just loose pages.

Well, I also insist that you write and not type. There’s lots of research out there that suggests the act of writing things out longhand is completely different than typing, when it comes to our brains.  The healing happens when we write longhand. The healing? Yes, healing. Journaling can even speed our physical healing. You don’t even have to write about your physical ailment.

What else? You also need an open mind and heart. We’re going to work on this, so if that scares you, don’t worry. All week we’re going to work to reach a place that’s called Wise Mind. I’ll explain more when we start, but basically it’s where we consistently look for the middle ground, a hard task for people prone to black and white thinking. Everything we do next week is going to be about centering  body, mind, spirit, so we can stand in Wise Mind as much as possible.

When we’re in Wise Mind, we’re not reacting to partial information, we’re using both sides of the brain to see the whole picture and then we can make observations about how we’re actually feeling and are able to make wise choices about how to act. Take action, not react is the key. 

So, let’s get in Wise Mind and create some changes in our brain chemistry! You’re going to get the most out of these 7 days, if you can stay on top of reading the emails, do the exercises and connect on the FB page. It’s 7 days! The more work you’re willing to do, the more things will shift for you and the better you’re going to feel after a few weeks of implementing these tools.

The secret FB group is not a whim. i really thought hard and long about what’s been the biggest help in managing my anxiety and PTSD. Overwhelmingly, it’s been connecting with people who get what I’m going through. Cause how can you really understand a panic attack unless you’ve had one? Saying, it feels like you might die, or explode, just doesn’t make sense to the person who’s never had one. It doesn’t. We need our people and for me, that means other people with similar health issues! Listen and share and connect and enjoy a whole group of like-minded people who get it.

So, find the perfect journal and the perfect writing implement and let’s join together in community, a core yogic concept, and take a step towards ease, wholeness and maybe even a little happiness.

If you’d like to join us, but haven’t signed up yet just drop me an email at Mel@ayogkitchen.com and I can add you to the list.

I’m starting BreatheOnline November 12th, for those of you interested in a longer session with some deeper work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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DBT Skills, Cope Ahead, Attention Shifting and Temperature Change

Over at BreatheOnline, the six week course for managing anxiety and depression in a new way, we’re picking up again in the middle of week 4 with DBT skills.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy changed my life! As you’ve heard me say here before these skills are simple, but not always easy skills that help you manage your mood, mental health and especially times of high emotion. Developed by Dr. Marsha Linehan for helping people with Borderline Personality Disorder, it has been instrumental in changing the lives of people with Bi-polar Disorder, Anxiety, Depression, ADD and PTSD.

As most of you know, I struggle with anxiety and also have a PTSD diagnosis. For full disclosure, I’m not medicated, but work with lots of folks that are. I manage with diet, exercise, yoga and dbt skills. As with every human on the planet, there are good days and there are bad days. I am extremely grateful that these days the bad days are not the lows that they once were.

One of the skills we’re talking about in BreatheOnline is Cope Ahead. This is one of my favorites. This is a bit of what I wrote to the class in the FB group this week.

What does your week look like from here? Are there meetings, activities, events, interactions that you know might be difficult for you? Are you likely to be triggered?

Where can you anticipate needing to be especially skillful?

Cope Ahead is a skill that I use every morning. I wake up and think about my day and note what absolutely has to be done, what can shift if it needs to, where I have breaks or where maybe I’m going to be in high gear for a long period of time. This helps me know that I need to eat more in the morning and pack a snack, cause the day is going to be FULL and that maybe tonight is not the night to meet a friend for drinks, cause it’s going to be long and, oh yeah, I have to be across town by 7am. Drinks is something that I can easily shift,  so that I can feel more calm and be successful in terms of what I want to accomplish.

Do this with your week and think about what kind of dbt skills might be helpful. This week, I know that I’m traveling and my daughter is picking me up at the airport, then the whole family is going to dinner, before she and my ex head out on a cross-country drive the following morning. So, I need to be “on” when I arrive. I need to navigate a potentially difficult evening of high emotion on everyone’s part. Lots of excitement and sadness and anticipation. A mine field, right?  I need to be at my most skillful. Despite the travel plans to work while I’m flying, maybe the better choice is to work in the airport and then sleep on the plane. If I can’t sleep, maybe watch something totally mindless, so I’m Attention Shifting from anything upsetting or worrying. When I arrive, if I have time, jump in and take a cool shower to feel refreshed, but also to soothe my nervous system, using Temperature Change,  so that I’m in relax and repose.

The next morning, the girl and her dad leave for a three day drive. So. being perky and confident and excited for them is my job. Another shower with some cool down at the end will help me feel energized and help my brain feel calm.  I also will get up fairly early to make a big breakfast, get our son off to school and make sure everyone feels good about their day.  It’s the first time in a long time that I’ll solo parent, so I’ll hit the grocery store and start a week of cooking ahead for my ex and son. I’ll freeze big batches of soup, pasta sauce and breakfast burritos. THEN i will have a little down town, cause the day after I travel always requires a little downtown. Thursday and Friday, as well as the weekend are pretty open. I’ll probably work a bunch and get ready for some private yoga clients and cooking gigs next week. So I just have to be on top of it for a few days and then I can nap, take long walks, watch movies with my son and chill a bit before I get back into work mode next week.

What are you focusing on this week? What are tools that you’re going to be using to make sure you don’t get emotionally hijacked? It happens, there are things we can’t predict, but what can you see coming?

Check out A Yogi Kitchen for more information about BreatheOnline. There’s no session scheduled as this time. Contact me  and let me know if you’re interested and I can get a group going. . I’m nothing if not flexible, I AM a yogini.

Week 3 Yoga Poses to Manage Your Mood

Week3yogaposes`Over at breatheOnline we’re starting week 3 and focusing on yoga poses to help us manage our anxiety and depression. 

Getting ready for this week I’ve been reading, researching and even just reflecting on my own practice, what it’s meant to me and how I manage with yoga.

There are so many yoga poses that help mange my anxiety and ptsd. Legs up the wall, supported child’s pose, supine supported twist, prasarita padottanasana. I use them regularly to manage my emotions. 

The biggest gift from yoga though is that feeling that I got the first day I pressed up into down dog. it was this scary, exhilarating, peaceful feeling. It was coming home to me. I was 26 and I’d never felt that feeling.  I felt it for a moment and then it slipped away. I remember thinking, wait! what was that? it came back for savasana and I was hooked.

Now 21 years later, it comes quickly and lasts past my practice. Sometimes it stays with me for days, but a yoga practice is like showering. You have to do it often to get the results.

Without this simple gift I would be lost.  Well, more lost than I normally am, but it’s a tool that I can pull out quickly and easily.  When I feel lost, which I often do, I can get on the mat and find myself. And not just find myself, but my most honest and authentic self. This is the place where I can’t lie to myself. I can’t hear the voices in the back of my head or the critical people around me. On the mat, there’s only Melissa.

I invited my BreatheOnline class to practice legs up the wall for at least five minutes every morning this week and notice the difference after just a week. Join us! 

BreatheOnline is a six week long course to manage anxiety and depression in a new way. We’re just starting our third week. You work in your place, at your pace, so you can join us and I’ll get you caught up! 

 

It’s Like Showering

I’ve been honored enough to work with some pretty amazing clients over the years. I’ve had students whose anxiety was so big they needed to sit in the HS parking lot for a full hour before going in those scary glass doors. I’ve worked with people whose chronic pain would flatten me, but they go through life with a smile as they explain that the pain is an 8 today. I’ve worked with people brand new to the practice, but so willing and eager it melts my heart.

In almost every class I mention that yoga only works if you do it.

Seems pretty straight forward right?  Over and over again in my life, though, I think I should get to do something just once or think about doing it and I’ll get all the benefits. Yet, there are so many things I know i have to do over and over again to get the benefits. I shower everyday, I wash the dishes everyday, I work everyday.

So, why do we get confused and think we should just go to one yoga class and if we don’t get the benefits, it’s not working. Or that working out isn’t helping,  we’re not getting stronger, we’re not losing weight. Oh yeah, maybe cause I just did it twice last week and only thought about it this week.  Well, no that’s not really going to get me stronger or help me lose weight, but then my nutty mind says it’s not working and I shouldn’t even bother.

Yoga is like showering. You have to do it over and over again to get the benefits. I can know this. I can hear this. Yet, there are times that I get frustrated because my neck hurts or the anxiety gets big and I think WHY! I’m a yogi, WHY is this happening.

Well, nine times out of ten it’s because it’s been a busy week and I haven’t practiced as much as I need to to  manage my neck pain or my anxiety.

Last year I was home in Chicago and found out some stuff about my parents and their health issues. viparita-karani-asanaMy mom is on blood pressure meds for her high blood pressure. So, I showed her Viparita Karani, legs up the wall. At 73, she was able to get into it easily.  Luckily, getting on the floor was okay for her. It’s not always easy. You sit next to a wall, with your hip next to the wall, and swing your legs up and lay down flat on the floor. Simple. Easy. For most of it it feels pretty yummy.  You shouldn’t feel like it’s a big stretch. If you do, you just scoot away from the wall till it feels comfortable. I know, though, for a lot of people her age getting on the floor can be hard or the thought of getting back up can be scary. She popped into it and then popped out. Good for mom!

She enjoyed the pose. She said it felt good. While I knew that she was getting these amazing benefits, she just relaxed.  A few months later when I visited again, I asked her about it. First, she didn’t remember doing the pose. Then when I prompted her and reminded her, she was like, Oh, I didn’t notice any difference so I didn’t do it again.

Yoga is like showering. Or taking your vitamins, or meds. You do it everyday. Or at least a few times a week for the benefits to be real and long-lasting.

Is there anything we do just once that lasts for months and months? Yet, we think that’s how it should be.

Feeling frustrated? Just remember, it’s like showering.

 

Need some help remembering your practice? We can work together long distance. Let’s Zoom! Need help using yoga to to manage your mental health? Sign up for #breatheonline.