Trust

I think the root of so many problems lies in trust, or lack of it.

In our monthly Sunday session of yoga teacher training last week, after the morning yin yoga class, we began with a brief meditation. It involved sitting and breathing in and out for equal counts of your own timing while blocking one nostril, alternating and repeating, and then after a series of that, breathing through one nostril at a time without physically holding the other closed with your finger. I can’t remember how many breaths but it was probably around 10 minutes of this meditation.

The first thought I had when our teacher told us to begin was already to doubt myself. Not that I could do it, because we had already done this sort of active breathing meditation in the past, but just various silly things, like: “oh no, I think I already forgot the instructions–how many breaths am I supposed to take? when do I switch sides? am I doing this right?” etc. I kept opening my eyes for the first few breaths to check that I was doing the “right” thing. Luckily, after a minute I remembered that lesson that keeps tapping me on the shoulder and whispering in my ear lately: “there isn’t necessarily a ‘right’ way. just do it.”

I could’ve spent the ten or so minutes wondering whether I was doing the meditation “right,” or I could relax into it and focus on the breathing on my own pace. Which was the whole point, anyway. But sometimes we forget that we don’t always have to follow instructions to a T. Sometimes we forget that we know what we’re doing. We forget to trust ourselves.

Later in the day, we were given instructions to pair up and study the muscles of the hip, upper leg, and abdomen. We were given a list of muscles, a total of 16 groupings, told to grab an anatomy book, and figure out their attachments and origins, and subsequently what kind of movement the muscle controls. Now, I loved the one anatomy class I took my senior year of high school and I tend to retain that kind of highly applicable information pretty well, but this kind of assignment (using medical illustrations and not, like, google and youtube, mind you) seemed like a pretty big jump outside of my scope of expertise. However, since I’ve known this teacher for the majority of my life, I’m pretty used to her tendency to assign challenges by now.

After an hour, I’m pretty sure we were all going a little brain dead from the mental work, but it was surprisingly not as out of reach as it seemed when assigned. We were all used to using these muscles, we just never had to think about them that technically until that point. But we figured it out, mostly, and then it was time for lunch. Again…a small part of me didn’t want to trust myself at first, but I proved that I had no reason not to.

Later, the final thing we did was build little tensegrity structures out of popsicle sticks and rubber bands. These were confusing at first. Once we got them started, we helped each other hold them together to finish connecting the parts. As I was pulling all my rubber bands into place, I started to get that doubt again. I was sure it wouldn’t work out, saying I had probably done something wrong, it wasn’t looking quite right. Yet, as I pulled the last band into the notch of one of the sticks and we let go, it sprung into place and held its shape.

Lately, I’ve been losing faith in myself. I’ve suffered a few major failures in the past few years and I’m still suffering from the residual ego-bruises. Now, when I fall behind, I start to doubt my ability to succeed. The thing about working as part of a group, such as in yoga teacher training, is that ego is often pushed aside. We’re all helping each other, we’re open, we’re vulnerable, we’re in it together. It’s good to push aside your ego as much as possible, especially where success and failure is involved. Your failures do not define you, and neither do your successes. They just help you learn and grow. These are all temporary experiences, and you will have plenty of them in a lifetime.

Often, I need to write my experiences out to connect the dots. I didn’t really know where I was going with this when I started to write this post, I usually don’t. But I think I’m convinced now; I’m not helpless, or aimless. Maybe I should trust myself a little more…but more importantly, realize that trusting myself isn’t really about me. It’s about trusting all the lessons I’ve been taught. Abandon that ego and you find that you’re never really alone. You’re not God. You didn’t get where you are by yourself. You’ve had a lifetime of lessons: hard lessons, small lessons, shaping you and nudging you into where you are. It’s not all on me, and I would be pretty silly to think it is…trusting myself is really just trusting in something more.

Explore

When you feel uninspired, unmotivated, restless…it’s time to explore. It’s time to get out of your house, take a walk, drive somewhere, take a spontaneous Saturday trip to a nearby city with no plans. If you feel like you aren’t meant to sit inside all day, working, studying, doing nothing…it’s because you’re not! It’s time to get moving and get some fresh air. Any excuse to get outside is a good one.

Maybe you can tell I’ve been unmotivated lately. I needed to get out and do something. Last Saturday my mom woke me up and said she wanted to drive to the city to explore a little and hang out for the day, so that’s what we did. I had some stuff to do, I always do, we all do. But I knew I wasn’t going to have a productive day if I stayed home, I just wasn’t feeling it. Sometimes, to get rid of the “but I should do _____ instead…” guilt, you have to picture how your day might go if you stay home. Are you feeling energized, motivated, ready to tackle that thing? If not, you may end up wasting your time procrastinating, doing unimportant things, and feel even worse for trying. Can you do it tomorrow instead? If so, a little day trip might be just the break/motivation/reset button you need.

I’m the best and worst person to take this advice from…on the one hand, I tend to prioritize family and healthy fun over to-do lists, and I can’t say I have ever really regretted putting something off to spend time with people I love. On the other hand…this can get me into trouble sometimes if I sacrifice sleep or get stressed later on because I didn’t prioritize my work…so take this with a grain of salt. But, I find that most people tend to put themselves under too much pressure, and I’ve always valued quality time with people above all else, so maybe I am the perfect person to give this advice. Trust me, it’s kind of impossible to regret actually spending time with people you care about.

Also, I’m a big believer in hometown pride (see my last post) and the whole “bloom-where-you-are-planted” -type affirmation. So even if you feel like you live in a boring place, I think it’s a fun challenge to seek out the local gems. I’ve always found surprising beauty in my literal and figurative backyard. I do happen to live an easy drive away from a couple major cities, but I often have just as much fun taking a walk in the park near my home…which, thanks to creative locals, occasionally has some fun surprises in store. The photo above was taken this past summer when my friend and I left the park path to take a shortcut past the baseball field and through the woods…and hello, someone had built a teepee out of branches tucked away in the trees! Super fun, random discovery.

Magic can be found anywhere, I tell ya, you just have to keep your eyes open…and explore from time to time.

P.S. If you need some new jams for your road trip playlist, I thought it might be fun to share what I’m listening to currently. Some old and new favorites of mine:

(shoutout to my cousin for randomly telling me I could pass for the singer of the band Alvvays, because it was just what my playlist has needed lately. Thanks for the accidental music rec Claire!)

Being a fan

Go team!! Why do we love rooting for the home team and being fans so much? It’s part of our identities. We attach so much importance to team allegiances. We get emotional, we get excited, we keep track of statistics and players and wins/losses. Maybe “we” is too much of a generalization, but I feel like here in America especially, everyone has a favorite team of some sort.

The Cleveland Indians’ 2017 season recently came to an abrupt end, the team coasting through the final month of the regular season with a record-setting 22-game win streak but ultimately losing the American League Division Series to the Yankees after 5 games. It was disappointing for sure, but as a lifelong Cleveland fan, I’m pretty used to experiencing loss. The Cavs brought a championship to Cleveland last year for the first time in my lifetime, but since baseball is my one true love as far as sports go, I’m still holding out for a World Series win by the Indians (their last one was in 1948). Last year, they came about as close as you can get, losing to the Cubs in game 7 in extra innings.

There’s something really special about maintaining a loyalty to a certain team. In my communications theory class, we discussed how proximity and shared interests draw us to other people. When you find out you are from a common hometown or area, or you are fans of the same team, it makes for an instant connection. These are your people. It’s fitting that the nickname for the Indians team is the Tribe. It really is our tribe.

I attended my first ever postseason baseball game on Oct. 5th in Cleveland. It was the first game of the ALDS; people were excited, hopeful. The stadium was packed full, loud, electrifying. The Indians were looking good, it was an easy 4-0 win that night. It was natural to chat with and high-five the strangers around us. We were all there for a common purpose. We were rooting for the home team. The phrase “Rally Together” was emblazoned everywhere you looked. Everyone sang along to “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” with a smile during the 7th-inning stretch. There’s something about coming together for that major shared interest, coming together as fans.

The same applies for many things. Going to see a band in concert, keeping up with a favorite TV show or seeing the work of a favorite artist in a museum. There’s something about humanity that craves connection and familiarity. I love sharing excitement (and even disappointment) with thousands of strangers. I love things that can bring us closer, even if only for a moment.

What do you think? Has being a fan of something ever made you some fast friends? Isn’t there something special about having a home team? After all, there’s no place like home.

Grief and high delight

“Against my better judgment, I feel certain that somewhere very near here—the first house down the road, maybe—there’s a good poet dying, but also somewhere very near here somebody’s having a hilarious pint of pus taken from her lovely young body, and I can’t be running back and forth forever between grief and high delight.”

–J. D. Salinger, Franny and Zooey

This is one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite books. It stuck with me immediately and has continued to resonate with me for years, even though out of context it sounds a bit odd. Even in context it might be odd by some standards, but if you are the type of reader who appreciates some good Salinger, I think you understand perfectly. Even if not, I think we can all relate to this feeling in our everyday lives…the feeling that some days you just bounce between those two extremes on the spectrum of emotion, grief and joy, and sometimes the oddest things bring you joy in the midst of your grief. It just seems to go that way in this world…such major highs and lows, so many joys, but so many tragedies.

Sometimes when grievous things happen, I find myself wondering why, but at the same time, I don’t really dwell on the “why.” The photo above was taken on Sunday in an herb garden that my cousin planned and planted several years ago. It has been almost half a year since a rare and aggressive cancer took his health and his life.

I find myself thinking of him in some small way every day since, and sometimes I do wonder, “why?” But mostly, I don’t, at least not as much as before. As young children, we often ask “why” repeatedly. As children, we are curious, inquisitive, learning in high volumes. As children, we need to ask “why” to start building connections between everything in this great big world we have newly joined. As an adult, however, I find that the greatest lesson I have been slowly learning in the past several years is that I will never understand everything. Some things don’t have a clear answer to the “why.” Some things aren’t meant to be understood.

I still feel stressed, anxious, or deeply grieved by some things. But I have found a remarkable peace in letting go of “why.” My faith is definitely the major influence in this mindset and this peace I have regarding hard and heartbreaking things, and I really couldn’t imagine having this extent of calmness in the face of certain tragedies without that belief that there is a God who is perfect and holy and cares for all of His creation, despite all the bad things in this fallen world. I want others to come to this same peace, but I’m not very good at talking about God to others because my faith is so deeply a part of my being that I just don’t know where to start or how to word it. Instead, I just try to live a thoughtful life through which I can pass this peace and joy to others in some small way.

So when I think of tragedies in the world, some affecting many people, such as the recent multitude of natural disasters or the shooting in Las Vegas, or some affecting a smaller group, such as losing a family member much too soon, I don’t dwell on the why. I believe things happen for a reason, or maybe weren’t “meant” to happen, but have positives even despite tragedy. But I’m not meant to understand it all. I’m only meant to love my family and do my best to work on my tiny presence in the world, through the joy and the grief. Remember to always look for the light in the darkness, because there are always glimmers of hope. If your heart has been heavy lately, I hope this can encourage you.

“Grief will succeed joy, and joy, grief, just as night follows day. This is how the Father of lights has established the path of those who are being saved. Just have patience and hope: engrave these in the depths of your heart—with these, all adversities will be faced.” – Elder Ephraim of Arizona

Fall feels

So…is anyone else getting those #fallfeels really strong right about now?

Was that a very millennial thing of me to say? haha. I think fall has been made into such a big thing the past few years where it seems like it’s everyone’s favorite season, and the Halloween and pumpkin-spice-everything marketing is off the charts. Eye-roll inducing, maybe, but it’s hard to say that the fall love is unfounded. It is a pretty lovely season that seems to bring strong nostalgic, cozy feelings with it as the air cools down and the leaves change to those gorgeous warm colors in contrast.

While I think spring will always be my favorite season with my mid-April birthday and undying love for flowers galore, fall certainly makes me question my allegiance year after year. There must be something in that crisp autumnal air that hits me with waves of bittersweet memories, as if my entire life could be summed up in all the autumns I’ve experienced. Suddenly, I’m back in my little woolly brown coat, my tiny fingers learning how to do up the buttons, or sitting in a pile of leaves as my cousin makes up scary stories, or testing my sewing skills putting together another homemade Halloween costume, or meeting family to go apple picking or exploring one sunny weekend.

I’m beginning to ramble, but I believe autumn is the season for rambling…a season to slow down a bit, appreciate the fleeting beauty in the air as the leaves change and fall, to take time to get outside on the weekends before the weather becomes too frigid, to reflect on all those magical autumns from childhood to present and try to rekindle that magic in a busier time. The summer warmth is still lingering this year where I live, but when those temperatures drop, it’s also time to embrace the coziness of wrapping yourself in sweaters and layers and grabbing a hot drink or soup. Soak it allllllll in. 🙂 I don’t know about you, but while I would prefer to ignore everything and take up residence in a cozy cabin somewhere to read all those books I haven’t made time to finish, I also find that even schoolwork and typically monotonous responsibilities are more tolerable when I embrace the fall spirit and cozy up to get work done.

So wherever you are, take a moment to feel all those fall emotions…it’s a season for the joy, and the grief too. Take it all in with extra gratitude if you can, and use those changing leaves as one of nature’s clearest illustrations of transition: time passing and seasons shifting. Because time and change are the constants in our fickle world, and all we can do is appreciate every season we have. 🙂

Jumping In: Yoga Teacher Training

Picture this: it’s summertime and the sun is beating down, the pavement is hot, but the pool water is cool and refreshing. The water temperature is so different from the air that wading slowly into the shallows would make you tense up in discomfort. So there’s only one thing to do…

jump in.

Some things in life require you to do the same thing that you would to enter cold water on a hot day: jump in, all or nothing, submerge completely.

I quickly realized that’s how it was going to have to go for me when the opportunity arose to go through Yoga Teacher Training. I didn’t feel ready. In fact, I wasn’t even considering it as something I wanted to do, even though I’ve been doing yoga for around ten years now. (Remember I mentioned my ballet teacher in my last post about Focus? The same woman is my yoga teacher and I’ve been doing yoga this long because she would incorporate it as cross-training for ballet.) That changed when the aforementioned yoga instructor announced she would be offering her last round of Yoga Teacher Training.

Knowing her, it’s debatable whether this will truly be her “last,” but nonetheless I decided pretty quickly that this was not an opportunity I wanted to pass up. Initially, I had serious doubt and hesitation. Could I ever really be a yoga teacher? Well, yes, I guess I could, but it would certainly mean leaving my comfort zone, which I am trying to do more anyway. Could I really commit the time and energy (and finances) to doing this intense year-long, 200-hour training on top of my college education that is nearing its end? Well, I want to become more consistent about practicing yoga, and since I’m living at home and have finally become decently organized with my coursework, I guess I could handle it. And so the doubts slowly lessened, and I realized two things: there would be absolutely no better time in sight for me to take on this training in the future, and I would seriously regret not doing it if it truly was my longtime teacher’s final time offering it.

So: challenge accepted.

I’ve already made it through one twelve-hour Saturday and a nine-hour Sunday at the yoga studio to kick off our year of training, and honestly, it was super fun. Luckily, we have a great little group of people doing this round of training (my mom is in it too!) ranging from 20-something to 60-something, and we’re all in it together. It’s definitely not easy, but I think this will be one of those experiences I’ll remember for a lifetime, and hopefully I’ll learn a ton and be able to pass on what I gain to others through the teaching part in the future. 🙂

I look forward to documenting more of my experiences in YTT on here, I’m sure I’ll have lots to talk over! Also, “Jumping In” seems like a concept I could continue in future posts as well. We’ll see.

If you need a shove this week, try visualizing the pool metaphor…and just jump in. 😉

Focus

There’s so much going on in the world today. So much good, so much bad, so much exciting, and so much mundane.

In a way, social media has leveled the playing field. Major news headlines sit alongside headlines of lesser importance about celebrities or sports. People from anywhere in the world with WiFi access can have a discussion in the comments on a Facebook post. It seems like everything is accessible thanks to the internet and in turn, this makes everything harder to filter and process.

It’s so hard to focus in this world, but focus we must.

In recent years, it has become painfully evident to me how much I struggle to keep myself on task when I’m alone. I have gotten much better at cultivating focus out of necessity, but every so often I still have days when I just feel constantly restless, when it is just difficult to think. I tend to do best when I am in a semi-public place, like a coffee shop or library. My self-consciousness keeps me accountable to my work when there are other humans around me.

In addition to forcing yourself to focus in order to finish a certain task, it is also important to cultivate focus in your hobbies/activities and interests as well. This is perhaps where I struggle the most. I love doing anything remotely creative, so I often end up creating nothing because I can only think about the ten different things I want to try–weaving, sewing, painting, you name it–and end up indecisive and doing none of the above. Something that has really helped me lately is realizing that (God willing) I have time. I don’t need to learn and try everything I ever want to learn and try right now. I can focus on one thing at a time, and then move on to something else when I have sufficiently explored the topic. As much as I am always living either 10 years into my past or future in my head, I am very much here-and-now in reality: not a big planner, probably too emotionally-led, always wanting to do everything on my to-do list at once, and often a play-before-work kind of person.

I think about something my ballet/yoga teacher said to me when I once asked her about the potential challenges of teaching ballet in the 21st century. She said the challenge is that kids these days (or their parents) aren’t as willing to make the commitment. Ballet is one of those art forms that takes a solid 10 years minimum to really learn, to get the posture and muscle memory and all the nuances down. You can tell a trained dancer from a casual class-taker often just by the way they move their upper body, their port de bras; the minute hand, finger, and arm movements requiring years to develop into the strong but delicate proper expression.

I wondered the other day about how different I might look and move if I had grown up playing basketball or something instead of ballet. When you spend so much time on something, it truly shapes you. My feet instinctively feel the floor as I walk, my toes automatically point and reach for the steps as I descend stairs. When I look in the mirror and stand up straighter I can still see the ghost of my ballet posture, lean and long. It’s been years since I was consistently in class, but my body still remembers the movements that were drilled into my muscles by repetition during my developmental years. I didn’t do much besides ballet growing up; it was my primary, and sometimes only, extracurricular activity. I was in class 2-4 days a week from age 8 to age 18, with hours of rehearsal around performances up to 4 times a year. This is partly where I learned the importance of focus.

Now that I’m in full control of my life outside of school and spending hours in a ballet studio is no longer part of my routine, the art of focus is a constant pursuit more than ever. There’s just so much I want to do, but life is so short, and we must choose wisely. I didn’t really intend for this post to go so deep when I started writing it, but this topic has been on my heart for the last few years. Simplify, simplify. Focus. That’s the real key.

Where do you need to cultivate more focus in your life?

Reminders

I drew this a couple weeks ago because my mom handed me a sketchbook she found and some markers and told me to. Or at least, she asked me to draw her a simple saying and some flowers after she had been trying to doodle some of her own, and I obliged.

I used to love to draw, but I don’t do it often enough on my own anymore. I doodle a lot, but rarely sit down with a sketchbook, and I don’t know why, because I really love it. I have always loved it; I have tons of notebooks and loose pages of drawings from age 3 through my elementary and middle school years, but as life naturally moved out of that childhood slowness and got busier, I stopped drawing daily like I used to. Now, sometimes I need someone to shove a sketchbook into my hands and tell me to.

Sometimes we all need to be reminded to do simple things.

Today was my first day of classes to start the new semester, and I was thinking back to that simple affirmation I had doodled: “be brave & be kind.” It’s so simple it almost sounds meaningless, but it’s pretty good advice for those new experiences, or “first days” in life. It’s not my first day ever at my school, and it’s certainly not my first day ever of school or college in general…but it is my first day of different classes, with different people, in a different building, on a different part of campus…lots of new experiences. So, I still found myself with a bit of that first-day nervousness, and it’s good to be reminded: be brave. Be open to the new, the different, the unexpected, the unknown. And I met new people, so another good reminder: be kind. Be open, friendly, and helpful to others, they may have really needed your encouragement, and they will return your smile.

So if you have any “first day” apprehension, remember: be brave and be kind. It may not always be easy, but it’s simple, and the simple reminders sometimes make all the difference.

Accountability

While I detail the reasons this blog is named for the Luna Moth on my about page, I didn’t necessarily mention the fact that it also fits because I am a notorious night owl. It’s just another reason I can identify with a moth better than a butterfly or a lark. For a long time, this was a characteristic I just accepted that I couldn’t change; that I would be doomed forever to accidentally staying up until 2am more often than not, pulling all-nighters to write papers instead of working in the morning or afternoon, and overall being constantly in a state of sleep deprivation with multiple wake-up alarms set each morning.

These past few years I’ve become a bit addicted to self-improvement. As you can probably tell from the theme of my blog and the tone of the posts I’ve written, I’m always on the lookout for bad habits to reform, things to learn, and new habits to build. My terrible sleep schedule should have been first on the list, but again, I just didn’t think I could really help it.

Until now.

(dramatic pause) Okay, okay, no miracles have been worked yet! I’m probably jumping the gun a bit. But I do have good news: with just one simple change, I’ve been able to get up before 9:30 without an alarm multiple times in a row this week, and with no obligations on the calendar at the moment and a track record for sleeping in late at any chance I get, this is huge for me. So what miracle tip do I have? The title is a bit of a spoiler: accountability.

My best friend also happens to be a major night owl, so two Sundays ago, as we were lamenting our desire for early-bird status over snapchat with the new school year approaching, I had an idea. Since we already snap each other daily as our primary and easy form of communication, why not use it to help kick our late night habits?

We agreed to snapchat each other with a timestamp when we head to bed each night and wake up each morning. As accountability partners in Operation Early Bird, we could hopefully be motivated to reform our natural tendencies into much healthier and more consistent sleep patterns. Surprisingly, that simple challenge has made a world of difference. While neither of us has become perfectly consistent and we’re not exactly waking up bright-eyed at 5am or anything, we’ve both been much better about going to bed at a reasonable time and waking up without abusing the snooze button, and when we have nowhere to be, without an alarm at all and long before noon. Seeing as we both went from consistent 2-3am or later bedtimes and very inconsistent wake times (sometimes in the afternoon) to relatively consistent bedtimes often before midnight and wake times before 10am in under 2 weeks, I’d say this is a pretty impressive change.

We’ll see how this goes once the semester starts and work begins to pile up, but I’m hopeful that this is the start of much better habits and a happier school year ahead. I’m more determined and inspired to organize my life than ever, and with the renewed energy I have from waking up with the morning light casting the prettiest sunbeams, I think this is good preparation for the remaining year or two of my college education.

September always feels like a month of new beginnings, whether that looks like a new school year, a new job, or just a new season approaching. So, mid-August, I think I’m off to a head start for once. It will always be easy for me to fall into night owl, late, last-minute tendencies, but I’m finally challenging that. Bad habits may be easier, but they make life harder, while good habits make everything else a little easier. Do you have any September resolutions? 🙂

20 minutes

What can you do in 20 minutes?

I know I ask a lot of questions around here so far. 🙂 That’s kind of the purpose of this blog, not to go on about having all the answers, but rather to go on about not having the answers, and asking questions instead. When a question is asked, unless it’s a math problem, usually there isn’t one single correct answer. Maybe there isn’t a correct answer at all. This is one of those very subjective questions: what can you do in 20 minutes?

I think we often underestimate how much we can do in a short period of time. When you only have 20 minutes between one thing and another, you probably don’t aim to do anything significant. But adding up all those 20-minute in-betweens in your life, you’re wasting a lot of time if you don’t use them for something now and then.

Today, I’m using one of my own 20-minute intervals to write this blog post. Typically, I’d just scroll away on social media or clear my email inbox when I know I only have a small chunk of time between A and B. And sometimes you do just need to use that break if A and B are hard work or draining activities, but today my A and B are not work, so I decided to use that in-between productively, and here I am, with a significant bit of writing to show for it. So next time you have 20 minutes, instead of scrolling through Instagram, you could…

-put away laundry or dishes

-declutter a shelf or drawer

-write a blog post or a journal entry

-meditate or pray

-exercise!

-read a chapter or two

Again, maybe you’re more productive than me and you already do this. Or maybe you forget how much time 20 minutes really is and needed this reminder. How will you use your next in-between?