Monthly Archives: December 2014

My Yellow Crested Firebird

I recently read The Wisdom of Yoga: A Seeker’s Guide to Extraordinary Living by Stephen Cope for my book club. This was my second time to read it. I read it once before when we first moved to California about six and a half years ago. That was a pivotal time in my life as I moved away from practicing law and politics and began to move more towards my current role as a mom and a maker of home coziness. As I read it again and discussed it last night with the book club parts of it keep going round in my head as I think more and more about them and how they apply to me and my life.

The one thing that really sticks out to me is the story the author tells of the quest for the firebird and how:

“our unconsicious ideals cause us to sacrifice our true lives to a beautiful chimera, a haunting dream, a compelling
illusion. Imagine a bird hunter on the loose in a magnificent rain forest, searching for the mythical Yellow-Crested Firebird. The hunter is relentless in his search for this bird, a mythic bird that, unfortunately, exists only in pictures, and in our own supercharged imaginations.”

For as long as I can remember I wanted to have a successful career. When I was younger, I wanted that career to be in politics or law. I felt that there was something inside me that was wonderful and that I could save the world just a bit with it. I went to law school, hated it, but endured it anyway because I thought it would give me a leg up in the political world. After law school, I worked on the Kerry campaign and then moved to DC. I knew only a handful of people when I arrived, but I networked and managed to keep myself mostly employed for the three and a half years I was there. But every job ended and I just couldn’t seem to excel in whatever I was doing. There was always something tripping me up. It didn’t seem to matter how hard I worked or what I did, it was wrong. I was miserable. I kept hitting my head against a wall, but I would pick myself up and keep trying and trying.

While I was in DC, I also met someone else, Alex. He supported me through my many job searches emotionally and paid all the rent when I couldn’t pay my share. Then he got a wonderful opportunity: move to California and work for Google. He wasn’t sure he wanted to go, to leave his family and his friends, but I knew it was what he needed and we went. I left my law job happily assuming that I would take the bar in California and eventually start practicing again.

Before I took the bar that first time, I had a unique opportunity, several months to do whatever I wanted. I was a bit nervous about what to do with all that free time and worried that I would become bored and lonely. I didn’t really though. I took the chance to do more yoga, to run more, to learn to garden, to cook ridiculously, and generally do things that made Alex and my life nice. It turned out I was good at these activities and I felt happy in them.

Then I entered a phase of almost a year where I studied for and took the California bar twice. It was horrendous. In the end I failed it both times just barely. It messed with my self-esteem terribly and I felt embarrassed that I couldn’t pass it. However, it also gave me some freedom, I didn’t have to continue along the same path that I had in DC because I couldn’t. I had to do something else. So I got a retail job at Lucy and sold yoga clothes for a year. It was retail, it wasn’t always fun, but it wasn’t horrible either. The upside was that I had a great closet full of yoga clothes! During that time, I got pregnant with Walter and standing on your feet all day does not work with being pregnant so I quit and became a mother.

While I was pregnant, I did my 200 hour yoga teacher training. After Walter was born, I started teaching a class of mom and baby yoga and then I started teaching just a vinyasa flow class. I taught that class all the way up til the week before Ella was born. I enjoyed teaching it and delighted in watching my students progress in their practice. However, yet again, it was not meant to be and I lost the class during my maternity leave with Ella because my subs numbers were better than mine. So it got me thinking about me and me working again and wondering why I keep trying to do it. Then I read this book and realized it was my yellow crested firebird. I have this wonderful idea of what it would be like to have a successful career and how it would make me feel. However, it just doesn’t match my reality of what working looks like for me. While I am spending all this time and energy chasing after my firebird, I am missing what is right in front of me. What I am actually quite good at doing. I am good at running our household. I like to cook and I like to feed people. It warms me. I like to make our house a home.

So now I think my challenge is to let go my quest for my firebird and realize what is right in front of me that is quite lovely. I also need to mourn my ideal of career and let it go as it no longer serves me.  Please let the universe grant me the ability to do this!

A Traveling Practice

Our family recently spent the month traveling to see family. It was a wonderful trip. It was also a change in pace for my daily yoga practice. I practice 6 days a week and I am one of those people that does moderation badly. In order to maintain my practice I really enjoy doing it all the way. That means I get up and practice every morning at 5 a.m. pretty much regardless of what is going on in my life at that moment. I really enjoy the continuity of the practice and the chance to greet the day on my own terms. It is a chance for me to center and achieve a sense of calm before the chaos of the day descends on me.

This daily practice becomes particularly tricky when I travel. Throw in the current requirement that I pump before I practice so my breasts aren’t uncomfortable and you have quite a bit of a quandry.

First things first – you have to pack properly in order to practice. I always pack three changes of yoga clothes, any less and you are constantly worrying about doing laundry, a travel mat (Manduka makes one that fits nicely in a suitcase even if it is a bit thin) and my super special rug from Mysore that has KPJAYI on it so if I drop into a studio people know that I am for super serious! 😉

We were gone for a month and stayed in 4 different places while we were gone. This meant that I needed to develop 4 different morning routines to ensure that my practice happened in the morning. The basic requirements were: a place to pump that was not in the same room as where people were sleeping (waking up Ella or Walter would just be bad), a place to put out my mat where I had enough room to move about it and extend my arms outside the perimeter of the mat, additionally this room needed to be hopefully somewhere I could turn on music on my phone because solo practice is more fun to the tunes of MC Yogi, bonus points can be won if the room has an adjustable termastat that I can change to make it warm, and finally I tend to prefer wood floors to concrete because my travel mat is rather thin.

First stop was Berekely Springs, WV. We were meeting up with some friends at a cabin in the woods. I scouted out the cabin and there was an extra room that I could pump in the mornings. However, the room was carpeted and carpet is a no go for practicing on. Luckily there was a huge living room with floor to ceiling windows and hardwood floors. The drawbacks were that the room was cold and it was close to other bedrooms so no music. The pluses were the beautiful trees outside those big windows that I was able to watch the sun rise through. Gives actual meaning to sun salutations.

Second stop was my in-laws just outside of Washington DC. They have a lovely huge house there with a basement which seemed the natural place to practice. The furnance was downstairs so it was nice and toasty in the morning. The drawback was that it was concrete flooring so it was a bit hard, but it didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would. One day my sister even came down and did some of her practice with me which was wonderful!

Third stop was my parents place in Blanco, Texas which is about an hour outside of Austin. They have 10 acres out in the Hill Country there and impressively live in a very small one bedroom cabin. They have built another structure that has two rooms on top of each other and an overhang to park their travel trailer. We stayed in the bottom room so the top room was a natural place for me to pump and practice. It had concrete floors, but a thermostat I could control myself! I had my most ridiculous practice there of the trip. We arrive quite late and so I didn’t have anything unpacked when I woke up the next morning to practice. So I just grabbed my mat and practiced in the bathroom in my underwear and a long sleeve shirt. It was a bit close quarters! Also bras are nice.

Our fourth stop was a hotel in Houston, Texas to visit one of my best friends from college and her family. I hadn’t seen her in forever so I was quite excited to see them! I have to say that I was pretty impressed with my sheer determination and ability to find a place here. The first day we were there, Walter went down for a nap and Alex fell asleep too. However, Ella had no intention of sleeping. So I took her and decided to scout out practice places. The most obvious place would be the workout room or by the pool. However, the workout room didn’t have enough clear floor for a mat to go down and the pool had very bumpy looking tile around it. So I resigned myself to a not very comfortable practice by the pool and took Ella to find a place to lay her down so she could kick. I found a nice empty hallway by some conference rooms, laid out a blanket and put her down. As I played with her, I began to wonder if maybe the conference rooms might serve as a practice space. I wandered in and low and behold there was one of those movable dance floors set up for a wedding – bingo! I was set. I ended up pumping on the floor of the bathroom in our room and then going down to practice. It was a bit cold and I think I freaked out the kitchen staff, but it worked!

After all that, it was so lovely to come home and walk into the studio lay down my nice cushy mat and practice in a warm room with a teacher who would help me with my difficult poses.