On Acceptance and Silencing the Self Critic

by Jessica Sliman in


I'm seven weeks into yoga teacher training and I'm finding less and less to time make it to classes at the yoga studio. We are busy right now - the girls are in ballet and soccer, the teacher training takes up a lot of time, Donovan is working with a personal trainer a few times a week. Admittedly, I've been stressing a bit. I want to do more but I'm finding it nearly impossible to make it class on a regular basis.

To alleviate that feeling of not doing enough, I've been paying a lot of attention to how I can practice yoga without going to a class. Because yoga isn't just what happens in a studio. Maybe I do a few Sun Salutations when I wake up in the morning and do some hip openers while I'm watching T.V. at night. Maybe I take the time to do an online video when the girls are home with me. Maybe I do some neck rolls and focus on lengthening my spine when I'm sitting at the table.

Here's the other thing, though. Yoga is not just postures. It's breath work, meditation, lifestyle choices (like I wrote about when I talked about ahimsa a few weeks ago), relationship choices. It's cleanliness, gratitude, kindness, acceptance. It's a study. It's life.

Tonight I mentored in a new class and it was the first time I taught a standing pose (pyramid). I could go on and on about my portion of the class and how it went. I'm really good at noticing what I do wrong.  I got really good feedback from the teacher afterward. Good constructive criticism. I agreed with  everything she said and hearing it will make me a better teacher. Stuff like be confident, walk around the room, have more energy in your voice since you're teaching a more energetic portion of the class. Good stuff. 

Isn't funny how our brain can hear something that is incredibly helpful and then let it turn into something harmful?

As soon as I got in the car, I started running through my portion of class again. Over and over. Thinking about the things I wished I had done differently, starting to feel embarrassed that I didn't rock it, criticizing myself. (I'm really good at criticizing myself. This is why I think I need to invest in some yoga therapy).

And yet as my mind started to spin, I caught myself from letting it spin too far. I started to ask questions like, "Is this thinking kind? Is it necessary? Is it even true?"  No, no and no.

So right then and there, I decided to start a focusing on ahimsa again. A new practice. The practice of noticing my thoughts and noticing whether they were kind, true, and necessary.

The teacher ended class having students repeat a mantra based on the intention they set at the beginning of class and I decided to do the same. I set an intention and turned it into a mantra that I repeated a half dozen times before I got home. This is a new tool for me. (It was something like "I am learning and I am grateful). And I know this will sound a bit woo-woo but it totally worked.

I felt my energy shift. Instead of feeling down, I felt excited, confident. I sat up straighter. I came in and shared what happened with Donovan and the girls. I spoke with confidence and energy. Gracie told me, "Mom, you don't need to be perfect. You just need to work hard and have fun and be who you are." I'm kind of paraphrasing but those are pretty wise words from a five year old, don't you think? (She also said things like, "maybe the teacher called on you because she knew you'd do a good job and you have lots of books on yoga and a mat" and "being a helper in class is super special.")

I decided to let go of my ego, to let go of the idea of perfection, and to work on accepting myself. It's so exhausting to be so self-critical all the time.

Observe an old habit or pattern that isn't working for you (thinking negative thoughts), come up with a new pattern (replacing those thoughts with positive, kind, and truthful thoughts), and then studying this habit and making adjustments as needed. That's yoga, baby.

Kind of life changing.

 

 


Ahimsa and Satya (Kindness and Truthfulness)

by Jessica Sliman in


This morning during yoga, the teachers led a quick philosophy talk on a couple of the yamas. The yamas and niyamas are two of the eight limbs of yoga and they focus on our relationships. The first two yamas, ahimsa and satya, mean kindness (although traditionally non-violence) and truthfulness. The conversation dealt with how these two qualities are critical in our dialogue with ourselves and the world. (And ourselves. Because I know I say things to myself in my mind that I would never, ever even consider thinking about other people. You know?)

Imagine that every time you say something mean to someone, it's like pushing a stick or a spear into the foundation of your relationship. You can pull the stick out but the hole remains. Over time, all those holes weaken your relationship. I can't get that image out of my head - and it's a quick cue for me to take a breathe before speaking or acting if I'm coming from a place of anger, anxiety, or insecurity.....which is more often than I'd care to admit. I imagine with love and compassion and over time, you can fill those holes back in. But in reality, the damage remains. You can never get it back to perfect, you know?

And so, if we can balance kindness with truthfulness, we can engage in our relationships without causing damage or stickiness. You know what I mean by stickiness? That tension or goop you feel when things between you and someone else are just a bit out of whack? I feel that stickiness a lot and honestly, when the teacher said "the goal of yoga is to remove that stickiness," I almost shouted AMEN! Because good God, who wants that stickiness? It's the worst.

What's the antidote to that stickiness? Kindness and Truth. Ahimsa and Satya. When we communicate with people (or ourselves), we take a moment to reflect and we ask whether what we're about to say is kind, true, and necessary.

I continued to be blown away by how the study of yoga is not just the physical practice and not just the breathing practice - but it's really the practice of life.  And that this philosophy which is so old is still so applicable in the modern world.

Yoga teacher training isn't just philosophy, of course. It's been a mix of the physical practice, learning the anatomy, history, teaching, and Sanskirt. It's a TON of information but I'm enjoying all the different aspects and layers of it. The philosophy portion and the Yoga Sutras in particular are the things I'm most excited about on a daily basis.


February Purchases

by Jessica Sliman in


Last month, in an effort to be more conscious about my shopping, I started tracking my purchases. Perhaps it seems a bit over the top to track every single item I bring into the house (well, not food or cleaning products or other seemingly necessary things) but already it's helped me think more thoroughly about my purchases and even a month later, I can reflect on what added value to my life. It's also super simple.

Ana Wang recently wrote an article on conscious fashion that I found interesting and inspiring. My favorite thought from her post extends the idea of being conscious to all levels of consumerism and really all aspects of life.  She says,

And that’s what conscious is. It’s a beautiful way to say I don’t know all the answers, but I’m trying. I’m alive and I want to be a person, not a walking zombie with the choices in my life dictated to me. It’s a way to say I’m striving for something better, something more sustainable, something more fulfilling, and it isn’t about one thing or one way - it’s about what I choose. Conscious is choice, and for the first time in years, we have the choice to choose much better.
— Ana Wang

Pretty inspiring, right? Anyway, I'll let you gnaw on that for a while. Don't you love when you discover that someone else said exactly what you wanted to say in a much more lovely way than you ever could?

On to my purchases for February!

Home:

  • one small salt spoon for our Maldon sea salt (bought as a gift for Donovan from the Chelsea Market in NYC along with some new salt and an olive tapenade)
  • Baratza Maestro coffee grinder, purchased from friend of friend, used

Clothing/Beauty

  • 5 new pairs of socks, Target, made in China
  • 2 pairs of tights, Target, made in China
  • 1 pair of pajama leggings, Target, made in China
  • 1 pair of Goldsign Frontier Straight Leg Ankle Jeans, Shopbop, Made in USA
  • Canvas tote from Chelsea Market in NYC, made in USA
  • 2 NYC t-shirts for the girls from Chelsea Market, American Apparel t's, Made in USA
  • Organic argan oil, Amazon
  • A bunch of AVEDA products

Books

Girls

  • Rossignol ski boots, (a size too big so they can be worn next year too)
  • 2 small My Little Pony stuffed animals

We decided that it really is a pain in the ass to continue hand grinding our coffee beans every morning. I think Donovan and I started stalling in bed in the morning, hoping the other would start the process of making the coffee. When our friend who works at the coffee shop across the street mentioned that his friend was moving and selling his grinder, we jumped on buying it right away! We saved about $40 vs. buying it new. I'm not sure what we'll do with our little hand grinder which we bought last month in an attempt to save money. In retrospect, we probably should have gone with the automatic version right away but.....whatever.

The Target socks were necessary as I was traveling to NYC and owned approximately two pairs of socks that weren't short ankle socks or ski socks. I probably could have found a more sustainable version but it didn't even cross my mind. It was the day before traveling and I needed to check them off my list. The tights and the pj's were an impulse buy that day. I didn't need either of them but got sucked in by the clearance racks. Damn Target. I need to stay out of that place :)

The GOLDSIGN jeans are amazing. They're my first pair from the brand, I got them on sale, they're made in the USA and I've worn them 8 times without washing them and there is little to no sagging or stretching out. They walk the line between a slim boyfriend jean and a straight/skinny jean and honestly, I think they're the most comfortable pair of jeans I've ever owned.

I'm trying the argan oil as a face moisturizer as my skin continues to get dryer as I age. Especially around my eyes. It just came yesterday so I'm curious how it feels to moisturize my face with oil I'm going to give it a shot knowing I can always use it on my body and/or hair if I don't like it on my face. And the Aveda products (from my lovely sister in law) -  just stocking up on things we were running low on and use regularly.

We ski a lot and although I've gone back and forth on whether we should buy the girls boots, it makes it a lot easier to have our own stuff than having to wait in rental lines. Plus, we know we'll get another year out of them and that Neva will be able to wear Grace's boots.

The dolls....well, I mean, kids are kids, right?

I honestly didn't track my purchases as well this month and so I've done my best to remember everything I bought. I'm sure I'm missing a few things but I'll just add them to March as I discover them.

Hopefully I'll get some NYC pictures and thoughts up soon. And some catch up on my yoga teacher training which I'm enjoying so much!

 

 


Freedom is the ability to choose in whatever moment you're in.

by Jessica Sliman in


Last night in my yoga teacher training class we started diving into the Yoga Sutras. The Yoga Sutras are one of the primary texts for studying yoga philosophy. Someone jokingly referred to the sutras as the original self help book. There is some truth in that statement. Our teachers kept saying, "here are 195 sutras to help change your life."

We talked about so many different sutras and I have a lot of digesting to do. Each sutra is short and can be understood on a variety of levels. Seriously...I'm kind of on information overload. To help curtail that, I want set a weekly intention based on something we learned in class. Just something little.  So this week, I'm focusing on discernment.

It was said last night that "freedom is the ability to choose." Whatever moment we're in, we use our discernment to choose between suffering and joy. Through yoga, we become conscious of our patterns or samskaras and from there, we can question whether these patterns work for us. Just being aware of our habits is a huge step but I love that simple awareness can help us make better choices. We're making the unconscious conscious.

These samskaras can be simple or complex. I crave sugar. I eat too many cookies. Then I have an upset stomach. So I notice the upset stomach, notice the pattern, and bring that awareness into my next sugar craving.  Sometimes it takes a lot of suffering to realize you should just walk away from the Girl Scout cookies (I speak from a lot of experience here). I'm feeling stressed out so I zone out in front of the TV. I'm in a hurry so I get snippy with my kids. I am at a bar so I drink a bunch of beer. I mean, fill in whatever you want here. It can be anything.

So then we ask ourselves, is this pattern working or not working? How do we break the patterns that aren't working for us?

A few more examples of discernment from this week:

Something as simple choosing not to buy the $20 skirt is discernment. It may not seem like a big deal but deep down, it's breaking up a pattern that doesn't bring joy. The pattern is shopping without thinking, it's listening to marketing rather than listening to my mind.

Here's another example. On Wednesdays for my class, Donovan needs to be home to take care of  the girls. My parents invited him and the girls over for dinner and we had some miscommunication on where we were meeting to switch cars. When we discovered this, I was at my parents house and he was at our house. I started to feel anxious because I might be late. While I waited for him, I took some deep breaths. When he got there, we swapped keys, and I was on my way. I didn't allow the anxiety to create tension in our exchange (although, admittedly, in the moment, I wanted to). A few minutes later,  I realized I wasn't going to be late after all and felt good about the fact that I hadn't blamed the miscommunication on him. Honestly, it wasn't his fault. And it wasn't mine. I was just feeling stressed because I don't like being late.

They're such little things. I get it. But in each of those moments, I made conscious decisions. I used discernment. I can think of a handful of ways I've already employed this today - some good decisions and some not so good (please, someone come remove the cookies from my house?)

Not only is yoga the connection between breath, mind, and body....it's not just the physical practice....it's not just figuring out the fluctuations of the mind...it's not just controlling the senses....it's also having the freedom to choose in whatever moment you're in.

Isn't that a seriously beautiful thing?