The Happiness Project


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I recently finished reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. The book was my reward to myself for not quitting my job in January. It didn’t quite live up to what I was expecting. I certainly liked the CONCEPT of the book (taking a year to explore happiness and what that means to the individual, and how to create more of it), but I really didn’t like the author and the things she chose to work on for her happiness project. I read the whole thing (despite wanting to give up because it was making me more upset than happy at times), and while I enjoyed the chapter where she focused on writing and books (clearly her passion, so it made for the most interesting reading), and some of her conclusions at the end of the project, I didn’t enjoy her overall tone and default attitude about things. Particularly the way she acted as if it were such a huge task to not yell at her husband all the time. *shakes head*

Regardless, the project is a good idea, and like Gretchen says repeatedly in the book, “Everyone’s happiness project is unique.” That is very true. I am definitely NOT Gretchen Rubin (I probably wouldn’t even be friends with her), but I do know what makes me happy.

I also know that recently, due in large part to working behind a desk, something I swore I’d never again do, I haven’t been the happiest person in the world. I haven’t been the happiest me I can be, and I know, because I have experienced real happiness, and this ain’t it.

I’m working behind a desk in an effort to save up for the Bikram Yoga Teacher Training I’ve wanted to attend so badly for so many years. I’m working behind a desk in an attempt to earn a job that will help me keep my promise to myself to never work behind a desk again.

In an ironic twist of fate, I am sitting in a chair (which is horrible for your body) eight hours a day, answering phones and directing calls for the healthcare system. A system I myself constantly buck in favor of doing yoga and eating healthy.

The job has made me so miserable that I hadn’t been going to yoga, I’ve barely touched veggies, and I’m pretty sure I’ve gained at least fifteen pounds since being here. (They said I would, too. With an almost bizarre sense of pride, while showing off their fitness equipment, even, they laughed as they mentioned that we new hires would likely gain the “company fifteen”.)

In other words, I’m in danger of succumbing to the system I’m working for but otherwise carefully avoid. It’s a battle with my conscience on a daily basis, that’s for sure.

I keep telling myself that if I can just stick it out, the reward will be so wonderful and I will be so proud, but the cost is a year of misery.

Reading The Happiness Project reminded me of something I already knew: That I could not settle for a year of misery, I had to figure out how to get and STAY happy during this time. I can’t just wait for happiness until I get to teacher training. I have to BE happy when I get there. Or else it won’t make me happy, either.

I had started a new 60 day yoga challenge on January 11th, and I realized I’d inadvertantly started my own happiness project. I’ll be approaching mine differently from Gretchen. Instead of picking a whole bunch of things to focus on each month, I’m picking one. One thing, for thirty days. The goal is to have each thing carry over into the next month, so that by the end of the year, I’ll be more in tune with my own happiness. And instead of doing it each month, I’ll do each thing in thirty day chunks.

Included in this happiness project is blogging, because I’ve realized just how much I gain by blogging, even if no one reads it. Whether I like it or not, there is a writer living in my head that won’t leave me be. When I was a kid, it would narrate everything I was doing for a future novel. These days, it narrates everything I think for a future blog post.

Blog posts I’m not writing.

Hopefully blogging again will help clear up some of the mental clutter I’ve gathered since having this job, and also inspire me to think thoughts that would inspire (in turn inspiring me) others rather than depress them (or myself). Blogging regularly, though, is not on the schedule until May. Before that, I’ll be working on some other projects (and blogging when I can make myself).

My happiness project is as follows:

Jan 11th – Feb 9th: Yoga – Go to yoga every day. (completed)

Feb 10th – March 10th: Gratitude – Write down things I am grateful for in my life as it is every day, to remind myself how lucky I am and that everything is perfect as it is. (in progress)

March 11th – April 9th: Food – Re-introduce veggies and juicing into my eating habits.

April 10th – May 9th: Hooping – Hoop every day, and post videos at least once a week.

May 10th – June 9th: Blogging – Blog daily.

June 10th – July 8th: Meditation – Meditate for fifteen minutes daily.

July 9th – Aug 7th: Hug Nation – Watch back episodes of Hug Nation daily, download Halcyon’s Morning Meditation and listen to it in the morning.

Aug 8th – Sept 6th: Creativity – Start and work on This is Not a Book daily.

Sept 7th – Oct 6th: Friends/Socializing – Go to Open Stage every week, make efforts to attend other social gatherings.

Oct 7th – Nov 5th: Writing – Write every day, participate in LJ Idol.

Nov 6th – Dec 5th: Knitting – Start a new sweater, and/or work on the Masters Knitting Program from the Knitting Guild Association.

Dec 6th – Jan 4th: Singing – Sing every day. Possibly in front of people.

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In Search of the Right Combination

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A lot of people are constantly in search of the right combination of medication. Which prescription will keep them level? What can they take that will help them be the people they want to be?

I’m not a fan of medication of any kind, you don’t have to know me for very long to learn that. I will admit that a fear of mine is discovering some ailment I might have that would require me to join in the search for the best medication combination.

I realized something the other day, however. I am already searching for the best combination for me. I just choose a different form of medication. Right now, my combination consists of Bikram Yoga, hooping, and reading books and blog posts to better understand myself.

I tweak my combination regularly, because it never seems quite right. I also occasionally add running, counting calories, and eating less sugar, all of which are helpful, yet I keep searching. With my current combination, I can get almost to where I need to be, but I always feel just on the other side of that “healthy” fence. The most recent form of healing I’m seeking is called Rolfing.

Rolfing is also called Structural Integration. It’s similar to massage, however, the focus of Rolfing is to realign your body in relation to gravity by manipulating deep facial tissue.

I LOVE massages, professional and amateur alike. But what I’ve always wanted out of a massage is to find out what is causing the tension. I’ve known for a while that just because my shoulders are tight, it doesn’t necessarily mean the issue is in my shoulders. I’ve gotten massages from a few people who are able to track and locate the actual root of the issue, but those people are very hard to find. Finding the root of the issue is the central focus of Rolfing.

I also believe that emotions are stored in our muscles, and I’m hopeful that Rolfing will help me access emotions I have difficulty accessing on my own. So far, my journey to self-help has largely been without professional assistance. I’m interested to see what comes up when I involve someone trained to notice the things I take for granted and therefore may have never worked on independently.

My goal in combining these different “medications” is bringing my whole body into alignment with my mind, so that the two do not conflict. I think everybody, regardless of whether or not they are seeing a professional or doing their own personal research, is looking for the right combination to help them on their way to their own personal goals. What do you think your combination involves?

In other news, a quick update on what I’ve been up to since falling off the face of the earth: I got a new job, I got interviews from some awesome people, and I got engaged. All of which I’ll discuss in the coming weeks!

Yoga Milestone – Full Camel (I Did It! I Did It!)

Bikram’s series of yoga postures are set up so that anyone can do them. It’s actually called “Bikram’s Beginning Yoga Class”. A common misconception is that Bikram is somehow an advanced form of yoga, but the postures can all be adapted so that they are less or more challenging, depending on your practice. The class dialogue only covers the expression of the 26 postures required for maximum benefit. However, it’s possible to go even deeper in some of those postures, one of them being Camel Pose (Ustrasana).

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The dialogue given in class for Camel Pose ends with you grabbing your heels and pushing your hips and chest forward. You can go deeper into this posture by bringing your hands up over your head and reaching for your toes, letting your head rest between your feet.

I first saw full camel a few years ago at a regional competition for the International Yoga Asana Championship. The competition requires athletes to perform five pre-determined postures and two of their choosing. Those chosen postures turned out to be the ones I enjoyed watching most, because I got to see samplings from Bikram’s fabled “advanced” class, where you perform 84 postures instead of just 26. (TheDancingJ did a great write-up about her experience at Bikram’s advanced class.) I saw camel performed to its full expression by several of the competitors, and I fell in love. I wanted to try it.

So of course, I got right on giving it a go, right? Well, not really. I did work on extending my gaze further down the back wall until I could see my mat and towel underneath me. But I was nervous about actually trying full camel without warning my teacher first. I wanted to make sure I knew how to perform the posture, and it never hurts to hear confirmation that you’re ready.

Naturally, I always forgot to mention it until we were already in the room and in camel pose.

UNTIL TODAY! I marched into the studio and informed the teacher that I felt ready to try full camel, and she said okay.

I found out that full camel is actually a lot of fun! It sort of feels like going on a roller coaster that flips you upside down. Before doing the posture, I tried to visualize what it might look like to be hanging backwards, upside down, and staring at my feet, and my brain couldn’t handle it. It’s like it split my imagination into two panels, one with my left foot and one with my right foot. So it felt pretty trippy to actually SEE my feet there under me, and walk my fingers toward them.

I didn’t get my face between my feet today. To be honest, I kind of forgot that’s what I should be doing because I was too busy thinking, “HOLY CRAP! I’M ALL FLIPPED OVER! OH MAN!” But once I started focusing a little more on making actual adjustments, I could feel where I should aim, and I know I can get there eventually.

I don’t know if I’m going to try full camel every class, but I’m REALLY excited I tried it today, after dreaming about it for so long. At least now I know it’s an option!

My mom requested a picture of it, so here’s me trying it outside of class. Not recommended. I got into it as slowly as possible and held it only until Green snapped the picture, then I did some forward bends to compensate. This is a posture that I’m keeping to the hot room from now on!

And just for reference, here’s an video of what it looks like to go deeeeeeeeeep into this posture:

Nine Year Yoga-versary!

I’ve been doing Bikram Yoga for a while now. I say “for a while now” a lot because until yesterday, I couldn’t remember exactly when I started. I had a vague idea, but it was driving me crazy not to know. Finally, I decided to e-mail the studio where I first started taking class to see if they still had me in the system. I asked if they could tell me the date of my first class.

I got an e-mail back from them yesterday, and yes! They did still have me in the system, and yes! They had the date of my first class!

It was…*drumroll please*…May 22nd, 2002!

That means yesterday was my NINE YEAR anniversary of practicing Bikram yoga!

I felt like I should do something to celebrate. I went to class yesterday, and I informed them of my exciting discovery. But it feels like that’s not enough. I feel like this entire year should be one big celebration, as it is the beginning of my tenth year of practice. So I’m thinking of making posts over the course of the year talking about each posture and what I’ve learned from them, as well as general reflections like I’ve been doing from time to time.

I also feel like I should set a goal. I want to be a Bikram teacher. I know that, I’ve known that since I started doing the yoga, but in one more year I’ll have been practicing for a decade, and I feel like I should be a teacher by then. My goal is to get to teacher training by this time next year.

It’s kind of a big deal for me, knowing for certain now that I’ve been involved with yoga for nine years. Knowing the date is intriguing, too. I graduated from high school on May 19th, 2002, which means that three days after I walked the stage, I decided to give in to my mother’s request for me to walk into the hot room. I honestly couldn’t remember if I’d started going before or after high school ended. It’s oddly meaningful to me to learn that it was just after the end. The beginning of a new era. I know when I first went to class, I expected to hate it. I literally had the expectation that it would be awful beyond all reason and I would walk out in a huff. I was pretty surprised when it was not as terrible as I thought it would be, when the heat was bearable, when I could do more than I thought I’d be able to.

And now here I am, nine years later, Bikram yoga still a major part of my life. I know this is something that will be a part of my life forever, because every time I’m away from it, my mind is working out a way to get back. Every time I need it, it’s there. I’ve learned so much about myself in that room, and I’m not anywhere near done. Here’s to an incredible upcoming tenth year, and another life-changing ten years after that!

Yogic Reflections – Yoga for CONFIDENCE

It is Day Twenty-shmurmblemumble of my back to yoga forever lifestyle! Which is what I’m changing the name to because I think having a finite number of days is a bit limiting, and calling it a challenge gives it the illusion of being difficult, when what I’m really accomplishing is making yoga an easy, daily, regular practice for the rest of my life. I’ve been back for almost a month, and here’s what’s going on:

Classes are starting to get easier, waffling back and forth between days where I feel light-headed and dizzy and days where I feel strong and awesome and complete the entire class. I’m looking forward to more strong and awesome classes, because those are the classes where I really dig deep and get into the nitty gritty adjustments part of class.

The BIGGEST THING I’ve learned about myself this time around is that I’ve been holding a lot of compression and tension in my chest. The instructor told me sometime last week that if I lifted my chest more, I’d have been able to touch the floor in my backbend. (!!!)

I’ve also noticed that when I lift my chest up, there’s quite a bit of discomfort, a feeling of intense exposure that causes me to feel vulnerable, so it manifests as the desire to crunch back down. I know this is something I can work through, and it feels like something extremely powerful, like if I can break through this fear of exposure I will gain a whole slew of positive attributes. It feels like my chest is the key to my confidence, and it is my goal for the next thirty days of yoga to really push myself past that comfort zone and into the place where I feel comfortable keeping my chest high.

How often do I doubt myself, second guess myself, worry that I’m making the wrong decision to the point that I don’t make any decision at all? Every time I push my chest forward, these emotions come flooding in so powerfully that I feel almost like crying. Which means that this is where I’m trapping them, and keeping them by continuing to crunch myself up to feel comfort.

Which means I am holding within myself the solution to my own “issues”.

I will conquer these emotions and become the person I am underneath it all. Fear and self-doubt, you can suck it. Get ready to be TOTALLY DEFEATED. 🙂

Oh yeah, and it’s my BIRTHDAY! I am twenty-seven. I am pumped beyond all reason about being alive, and looking forward to making my twenty-seventh year my best, most confident and abundant year EVER. *HIGH FIVES FOR THE ENTIRE INTERNET*

How the Germans Ruined My Yoga Class This Morning

So yoga today would have been okay except for the fact that I consumed WAY TOO MUCH sugar, butter and general unhealthiness last night. I am blaming my crappy class on this. Because you know how I was like, “I TOTALLY DID NOT SIT DOWN IN THE STANDING SERIES” yesterday? I think I made up for it today by doing practically nothing but sitting.

FOOD IS THE ONLY REASONABLE EXPLANATION.

Have you guys ever been to Ol’ South Pancake House? It’s in Ft. Worth. And it’s like IHop but BETTER.

I’ve been craving their German pancakes since the second day back to yoga. I couldn’t tell you why. I was hanging out in class on that second day and all of a sudden I felt like this: “I WOULD LOVE TO JUST WALK OUT OF HERE AND EAT A GERMAN PANCAKE.”

I’m sorry, have you never had a German pancake before? Let me describe it to you. You start off with this massive, squishy, eggy-yet-delicious crêpe thing. I mean it is huge. It is hanging off the plate. That is how you know it’s GOOD.

Then you fill it with way too much powdered sugar and butter. When you’ve added enough of said product to induce seven food comas, you then drizzle FRESH LEMON JUICE all over the whole masterpiece. At which point, you then mash all the ingredients together and fold the crêpe on top of it, causing the butter and the sugar and the lemon to MERGE into a delicious nectar of awesome that leaks tantalizingly out the sides.

And when I say “you” I of course mean “the waiter at Ol’ South Pancake House”.

Then you EAT IT.

And by “you” I mean “me”.

I have dragged Green along for this heavenly experience once before, and last night I was like, “Listen, when I get off work, do you want to go to Ol’ South? I’M BUYING.” He said “YES.”

I got off work at 10:30 PM. We got to Ol’ South at 11:25 PM. At which point I ordered the crap out of a German pancake and proceeded to eat the whole thing.

Green said, “The first time you took me here I decided to get a German pancake too, and after about four bites I was good. Then I watched you eat yours and every time I looked at your plate, a little more was missing until the whole thing was gone. I was like, ‘How is she DOING that?'”

That is how sturdy these pancakes are. They strike fear in the hearts of lesser mortals. For this example, the lesser mortal shall be played by Green.

This is all very well and good, except for the fact that I tromped into yoga this morning with the German monstrosity on my stomach and proceeded to attempt to take class. Things the Germans have ruined: A lot of innocent people’s lives, the name Adolf, and my yoga class this morning*.

What was weird about today’s class is that I FELT okay. I was nice and sweaty and thinking to myself, “I’m nice and sweaty! I feel awesome!” And then my arms wouldn’t stay up in Half Moon. I watched them droop down and thought, “What is happening? I’m nice and sweaty and I feel awesome! Get back up there!”

And then Awkward happened, and I didn’t want to do ANYTHING. So I said, “Maybe I’ll just sit on the floor and feel sweaty and awesome.” Which is what I did. And every time I tried to stand back up, despite feeling awesome, I sat back down. Very confusing.

It’s okay, though. There’s always tomorrow. Which is what I WOULD have told myself except that the teacher today was like, “TRY HARDER. YOU’RE NOT GUARANTEED ANOTHER CLASS.” At which point I was like, well crap, how do I reconcile this feeling awesome yet feeling terrible at the same time? Maybe I should try hard- oh, nevermind. There’s always tomorrow. When my stomach will not be a brick of butter and sugar.

*That’s not entirely fair. I actually like the Germans. They make amazing pancakes.