Reconnecting with Yoga

yoga pose smiley

Yoga and I have had a complicated relationship. It’s nothing either one of us has ever done, but…ok, that’s a lie. It’s something I’ve done. Something not at all surprising to anyone who knows me and my propensity for never finishing anything.

I first became acquainted with yoga when I was about sixteen. Once I was over pretending to be a punk rockster, I wholeheartedly – well, halfheartedly – began to embrace everything “hippie”.

Yoga, for me, began with cheap workout DVDs and a little blue book of yoga poses and spaces to write one’s reflections following each practice. Now that you know that little secret about me, it shouldn’t shock you that the fill-in-the-blanks spaces of the book remained largely crisp and clean, free of musings and reminisces.

The little stick figure-led yoga series, however, got a lot of use. I would drag my green yoga mat with its twirly flower embellishment out onto the back lawn and forward-fold and downward-dog to my heart’s content. Until I just didn’t anymore.

You know the drill. Studying, the latest crush, choir practice…basically, life got in the way. The little blue book was eventually relegated to the back of the bookshelf, to gather dust along with DIY Makeup Tips and The Wiccan Bible. I know, I was an odd kid.

But, unlike the many how-to books and flash-in-the-pan interests that have flitted in and out of my line of sight in the past dozen years (think clay sculpting, marathon running, poem memorizing), yoga has had a tendency to meander back in, seemingly at random.

I have expended fitness punch cards on yoga classes, snapped up the First Month Free offer for almost every yoga video website, and vacillated between being able to get my nose to my knee and barely managing to reach my toes.

I should add that throughout most of this aimless wandering, I have sustained a 3-minute, self-altered sun salutation series almost every morning for about eight years. If this sounds impressive, it really shouldn’t. It’s born largely of necessity – a few missed days and my neck and shoulders declare war – and because it is so fast and rarely changes, really doesn’t further my yoga practice. But it’s something, right?

A week ago, though, I snapped up a membership at a great yoga studio a mere five-minute walk from my house. If that, coupled with my recently wide open work schedule, doesn’t remove every conceivable excuse from my well-worn book of excuses, then nothing will.

All the classes I have attended so far have been spectacular – mind-expanding, relaxing, and challenging. I sincerely hope this latest foray into the yogic world will be my last first time, and turn into YTT, experiences in India, and impressive feats of strength and flexibility. Most significantly, though, I want this one, rare thing I’ve felt a connection to for almost half my life to become an intrinsic part of my everyday existence, transforming my mind, my body, my knowledge, and my soul.

I just have to keep chasing it. Practice, practice, practice.

~Lou

Intentions

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In case anyone didn’t notice, yesterday was the first day of 2016. Apparently.

Oh, I knew it.  I heard the thumping bass through the ceiling, from the party one floor up, and the loud voices in the hallway at 10:30, just before I went to bed.  But New Years hasn’t really been a big deal to me since I stopped going to the parties and crossing my fingers that my crush would kiss me at midnight.  Ah, youth.

I’ve never really gotten into the whole Resolutions thing, for two reasons: First, I don’t think setting a bunch of goals essentially meant to guilt you into doing better, just because it’s January 1st, is the best way to go at it.  It’s kind of like Valentine’s Day; shouldn’t we be showing our partner we love them/trying to better ourselves every day?

Second, let’s be honest. I absolutely blow at sticking to goals. Like, seriously.  I get things done with time to spare, but it’s as if writing it down and making it official just blows that one completely. Too much pressure, maybe?

But setting “Intentions”? Now, that’s something I can get behind.

Ok, seriously, it’s like the exact same thing.  There’s no Resolution Ruler who says your goals have to be tangible tasks like Get Published, Read 25 Books, Do Yoga Every Day.  Your list can easily have more general instructions:  Intentions.

The two yoga classes I’ve taken since the new year began both embraced this same theme. All-encompassing guidelines around which you can – if you so choose – structure the coming year.  Or, preferably, the rest of your life.

Bits of wisdom like “Do less, and be more” or “Judge less, and appreciate more” or “Take less, and give more”.

I think most people have heard these quotes before.  I’m not even sure there’s a definite source for them, and that’s a pretty good sign of their lasting significance.

My own, overarching intention for the year? Be happy, and spread happy. I’ve got a good start on my own happiness – no more desk job, actually making an income doing what I love, residing in what’s probably the most beautiful place in the country.

So, as I continue along that path, I figure I kind of owe it to this universe that’s given me so much, to give something back (see wisdom #3).

Wishing you all (1) the momentum to pursue your happiness this year, and (2) all the happiness you desire.

~Lou

The Road to Freelancing: Inactivity Breeds Inactivty

sloth

Vacation can be a wonderful thing.  A week or two of being productive in our own ways – knitting, painting, jogging, catching up on missed episodes of your favourite shows – can often be just what we need to jumpstart our career-related productivity.  We return to our desk refreshed and renewed, with a whole new cheerful vigor to our work ethic.  For a few days, anyway.

But there’s another, darker side to vacation.  Holidays, particularly those that are more or less open-ended, can lead to a dangerous downward spiral of inactivity. Those unpaid projects – in my case crochet scarves, swimming, and sewing random things – can shift from time-fillers to time-wasters.  Why work on that article, when instead I can whip up another toque, or splash around in zero gravity for awhile?

know why, of course.  Because by allowing these hobbies to take over my life, I will very quickly run short of savings and be forced to apply to the Starbucks located up the street.

I’m exaggerating a little bit. Freelancing is great, and my current clients have no complaints about my work ethic.  But the thing is, when its up to me to choose when I work, and for how long, sometimes I can get a bit …let’s call it lazy.  I end up starting to work at five in the evening, and only because I have to put in so many hours today and I’m swiftly running out of said hours.

Picking when I get to work is lovely, to be honest, especially in the dead of winter when you don’t go out past four pm unless you want to come home in the dark.  So, I do all my errands while most other people are at work (though, geez, it’s still damn busy out there – doesn’t anyone work anymore?!), and save my buckling down for the after-hours.

Usually.

There’s another small issue involved in doling out my own work schedule.  I have a really short attention span, which translates to splitting my working day into multiple sessions.

This is great, because it means I’m actually working for that full one-hour period – I know I get an hour off after that, so why not?

But often this flimsy schedule, combined with the fact that I only work “part-time” right now, leads to day in and day out of three-ish hour workdays – for weeks.

And as much as that probably sounds amazing to  people working 8-hour shifts at a desk or behind a counter (believe me, I was right there with you 2 months ago), you’d be amazed at how even short shifts can wear on you if you don’t take a day off now and then.

I know – it sounds incredibly whiny, and I almost want to slap myself, but I’m just telling it like it is.

So, the takeaway from this installment of The Road to Freelancing is two-fold:

  1. Holidays are great, but if they aren’t strictly limited, they might just cling on.
  2. Forty hours of work still deserves a day off, even if it was spread out over 10 days…

Tune in next time, to hear all about how I tried to stick to an 8-hour schedule and failed miserably! (Episode currently in production…)  You can check out the first post in this series (which should be in part VI or so by now but, well, lazy) here.

 

~Lou

The Best Place on Earth

I don’t want to be that person.

You know the one.  The person who quickly becomes obnoxious from all their bragging and goings on about the wonderful, beautiful, spectacularly flawless place in which they live; the place that is better than any of the other places in all the world and extended universe.  That person.

It starts with a few pretty pictures on the Instagram feed, which are quickly disseminated to Twitter and Facebook. Comments begin rolling in, like “Wow, beautiful!” or “I’m so jealous!”.  These kind words go straight to the head, and soon the pictures are popping up every hour on the hour, accompanied by long, gushing captions detailing the intricacies of this one-of-a-kind oasis.

That’s when the encouraging comments from friends begin to die down.  A person can only use so many permutations of the phrase “Golly that’s pretty” before they just give up all together, possibly even going so far as to block the perpetrator from their news feed or push that ever-ominous “unfollow” button.

But does this cut back on the headache-inducing influx of images? Oh no.  It makes no difference, except that each and every 500-word caption now includes precisely 73 well-researched hashtags guaranteed to generate the most views, likes, and praise possible.

The number of followers actually known to the “photographer” may dwindle, but this isn’t a problem, as they are now followed by plenty of new #paradise and #blessed enthusiasts more than willing to continue feeding that increasingly inflated noggin.

Ah, the glories of social media.  All the disinterest and exasperation of friends without any of that pesky interaction.


I jest. Of course I jest.

But I mention all this as recognition of the fact that I am fast becoming one of those people.

Having recently relocated to beautiful, spectacular, wonderful Victoria, British Columbia, I am absolutely inundated with stunning views and exciting visuals, from the 19th century architecture, to the crashing waves, to the blue herons perched on rock outcroppings.

I could post a new, gorgeous picture every twenty-five minutes, if I was so inclined.  At this point, I’m not. I’m still in the mood to keep these amazing vistas all to myself, posting only the occasional snapshot depicting sun glinting off the rippling waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

But I am a bit concerned I might get there; might become that nauseating followee on your page that has posted six dozen pictures of the same. damn. beach in the past week.

I’ll make you this promise, though: If I do find myself becoming that person, I’ll provide a disclaimer offering anyone the chance to abandon ship before the onslaught begins.

You’re welcome.

~Lou

James Bay, Victoria, shoreline

Don’t worry, I’ve limited myself to just two. The shoreline…

victoria2

…and the horizon. Done. Promise.

The Road to Free(lancing) – Part I

It’s fitting, in my mind, that a job requiring one to work mostly from home, seek out a variety of clients, and write for them – blogs, product descriptions, articles, ebooks, other content – should have the word “free” in its title. Even if will probably amount to a serious decrease in income, I can’t think of anything more freeing than working as a freelancer (or, in some cases, anything closer to working for “free”.)

I have worked a lot of different jobs in the decade or so I’ve been a contributing taxpayer. I flipped burgers at a fast food joint, I mowed lawns at a golf course, I ran the entrance gate at a campground, I filed and typed and greeted as a receptionist, I made copies and pressed “Print” a lot at a print shop.

Nnnnope!

Nnnnope!

Every time I start a new job, I think: Maybe this will be the one I don’t dread going to in the morning. (Ok, not every time. I never thought that about the burger joint, even at 17.)  But it never is – except maybe the campground, but that was just a summer gig.

I’m not complaining, exactly.  It’s just taken me longer than I would have liked to figure out what I want to do with my life.  I was going to be a doctor, a psychologist, an interior designer, an art historian, a reporter.  All these things seemed like great plans initially, until I discovered I don’t love doing any of them.

Trust me, I have wished too many times to count that love didn’t have to factor into it.  Why can’t I be content working a job I just like, something where I make good money, and save the things I love for after 5 and on the weekends?  And I’ve tried. I’ve tried to trick my mind into thinking it was happy, or at least satisfied.  But my mind is too astute for its own good.

Nuh-uh

Nuh-uh

When I’m being honest, I guess I’ve always known.  Writing is the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do that didn’t change with the season or my latest favourite university class.  I’ve been writing since I was too young to know how – using wavy lines in little notebooks to “read” stories to my parents.  I did finally follow that passion to a journalism degree, but even that wasn’t quite right.

And then I got a job as a writer.

It should have been history. It should have been the perfect working environment and amazing stimulation for my extracurricular writing activities.

Except it wasn’t.  Oh sure, sometimes I get to research and write about really cool stuff like art movements in history, or tips for pricing your artwork – studies that reawakened the passion for art that led me to get my art history degree in the first place.

But there are problems with this job, too.

  • First of all, I have to set an alarm.  I don’t need more than 7 hours of sleep, but waking up to an alarm seems to sap me of all my energy straight off. I’d rather wake up at my own pace, and then work later accordingly.
  • Secondly, I have to go to an office. I know, this is a picky, whiny one, but I honestly don’t even remotely enjoy the communal working space environment.  Give me a hermit hole in the mountains any day (except when I need a hit of Starbucks or to browse through Value Village).
  • Third(ly?), I have to sit at my awkward-height desk in my badly lit room, in my non-ergonomic chair and work for eight hours straight (minus two fifteen minute breaks), or risk being scolded by a hovering superior.I’m not lazy, and I’m a really hard worker.  But I’m one of those people who needs to distract myself with other things in between a larger task.  It’s just the way I work.  And good luck finding an office working environment that allows that!
Now we're talkin'

Now we’re talkin’

Have I made my point? I feel like I’ve made my point.

Suffice to say, for now, that getting out of the office and in to working for myself is primed to be one of the best experiences of my life.  And it’s finally – actually – happening.

Tune in next time for Part II: Oh Right, Work….

:)

Lou

Farewell To A Friend

What is it about humans and their Stuff?  Why (and how) do we form familiar, dare I say intimate, relationships with random crap that does not – and never shall – return our feelings?

It was awfully hard for me to put those jeans in the Value Village Pile.

We’d been together about 5 years.  They loyally accentuated my ass at the bar, faithfully relinquished stains of every sort, and kindly served up just the right in-between fitted/straight leg to act as my segue-to-skinny-jeans jeans.

They wore through at the inner thigh about a year ago (you know the spot, ladies). I kept wearing them because I love them and, lets face it, if you’re looking that closely at the spot just below the zipper, you deserve to see whatever you see.

Then, a few weeks ago on a Value Village perusal, I found the exact same pair of jeans – minus the rip.  Despite the keen sense I was committing the worst kind of denim adultery, I was ecstatic.  And when I got home, naturally, I pulled out the old, ever-devoted pair and added them to The Pile – a stack of disused t-shirts and another pair of jeans for which I never developed quite the same level of affection.

All this carried out in a quick burst of altruistic fervor (let’s just say), I stepped away.  Then paused, looked back.

I knelt before the neatly folded mound, lovingly stroked the worn denim, ran my fingers along the frayed seams, gazed with respect upon the loops that so faithfully held my nylon belt with nary a tear or loose thread.

I sighed.  How could I abandon this precious time capsule? This glowing example of selfless friendship with which I’d been through so much, now so distressed. Am I a monster?

I must be. Blame it on lack of space in the jean drawer, or a general fear of commitment, but my sweet, beautiful jeans – the ones with just the right amount of fade in the most flattering places – remain atop a stack of abandoned wares that just didn’t make the cut for my tears of loss.

Fare thee well, 6 Long American Eagle Super Stretch. You were loved, you will be missed.

jeans rip

Motivizing

I’m always in the mood to set new goals for myself … until I’m not.

Now, this would be all find and dandy if these inspirational urges lasted awhile. Maybe a couple weeks, while I perfected a new chord on the guitar, or even a few days, while I became All About fruit and veggie fasting.

But alas, it is more commonly short lived – I mean very short lived. We’re talking lulling myself to sleep by leaving a note at the side of the bed: “start eating healthy,” or “run Tuesdays and Thursdays.”  Come morning, I’m already fully prepared to give in to Corn Pops cravings and lazy evenings spend curled up on the couch.

So, it has me thinking.

Maybe I’m being too vague.  I mean, I’m notorious (to myself, anyway) for not getting random stuff done. Don’t get me wrong, I’m awesome at finishing things.  But these things must be required by employers, professors, parents, or really sincere promises, or they never see completion.

So if I make it really specific – like Check List specific – maybe that will feel more like a really legit promise to my slacker brain.

The plan: One Goal Per Month.

That’s it. One really specific goal that I will try hard – I kinda-pinky-promise? – to successfully maintain, or conclude, as the case may be.

And the secondary point of business: It’s compounding.  That means if I finish a goal one month, I’m expected to still carry on with it the next month, even though I’ll have a new goal to work on as well.

With any luck this will not only encourage me DO things I want to do (because of course, every goal is something I actually want to accomplish), but it will also help me to build some good life habits. Like not watching six episodes of Cougar Town in one sitting. (Not that I actually feel bad about that.  I felt like crap, it was Sunday, and sometimes a girl just needs to get her Courtney Cox fix, amiright?)

Now, onward…

The Goal – Month One

Write three chapters of my novel.

If you’re a voracious writer – or a published novelist – this goal might make you scoff.  But for someone who is seven chapters in to a story begun about 18 months ago, this is a big step.

I can do it. I know I can, because I’ve sat down and written more than 1500 words in an hour before.  That’s half a chapter, right there.

The trick, go figure, is to actually sit down and write. Because just like no publisher will pay me money for a book I haven’t written, no book gets written when I don’t physically write it.  Bummer.

Wish me luck, internet. By this time next month (this is starting tomorrow – I’m not writing anything else tonight) I will be wrapping up chapter Ten.

Really. I will.

Ish.

*Lou

On an unrelated note, another piece from the store!

moustache_wpGeometric Moustache
2014 Acrylic on Paper
Etsy Store

The Burn

Create art for a living

It’s a frustratingly polarizing ambition, that.

Some days, after a particularly good piece of prose has tumbled from my brain, or a sketch has the shining potential to become a hypnotically beautiful painting, I am bubbling over with the prospect.

Heck yeah, I can own and operate my own business! I’ll be such a raging success that I’ll no doubt be able to retire at age forty five, with six galleries showing retrospectives of my work around the globe, and a syndicated run of my Random Thought column guaranteed in three papers for the next twenty years.  Piece ‘a cake.

Other days, when everything I draw essentially amounts to stick figures throwing crap at one another (that crap being the previous drawing), and words beyond the titillating phrase “Durrrr…” completely elude me, I’m somewhat more subdued.

Maybe one day, I think, as long as I have a fallback job lined up for when everything collapses around me and I am plunged into inescapable debt, my apartment implodes, and my partner leaves me for a successful columnist to travel the world visiting retrospectives of her work.  Or when I’ve saved up enough money to live comfortably for the foreseeable future (read: 5 years minimum) while I scrape and dirty my knees begging for jobs at every blog on the English-speaking internet.  Maybe.

It’s a tumultuous ride, my subconscious, and it’s only made more so when this burning urge to create just feels so … stifled by the daily grind that I, like the rest of the 99%, must undergo (ah, woe is me).  And I have a marginally creative job. I can’t even imagine how those poor sods who dream of theatre stardom while waiting tables struggle through. Respect.

Ideally? Ideally I would take a month or two off work.  Paint and write and draw every day.  Apply for freelance or online editing and writing positions the world over. FORCE someone to hire me (with home baking, endless applications, monetary bribes – whatever).

I know someday the perfect job will fall into my lap.  I say fall, because once I’ve rifled through every possible future and papered the free world with my resume, something Just Right is bound to flutter out of the teetering, mile-high stack of my ambitions.

I have hope. And faith and determination – I do.  Some days, though, I just wish I had a fairy godmother, or a really wealthy relative, or a wishbone.

Until that day (the day something perfect shakes loose, not the day I get a fairy godmother), I’ll keep on bolstering that creativity that burns in my gut like some kind of fiery gopher who won’t stop trying to claw its way out of my throat and take over my life.

Thank you, resolute rodent. One day you’ll win that battle and I’ll have no choice but to surrender to your artistic whims.

For now, I just keep trucking toward the change that is, as they say, life’s only constant.

Come on, Change, come on. Move your bloomin’ arse!

*Lou

"Dreaming Tree" www.etsy.com/ca/shop/MyTransientReality


“Dreaming Tree”

Etsy Shop

You Should Do Yoga

I remember when I discovered yoga.

I was 16 when I got my hands on that first book – one of those thick-paged, hand-sized volumes that breaks down the poses with pictures of people in pastel unitards, awkwardly cut out of their original environment, floating on stark white backgrounds.

The internet not being quite the instantly gratifying go-to resource it is today, I think this initial taste of yogic goodness came from the discount bin at Winners.

I used that book.  Considerably more than I used the Yoga Journal I got later, since anything requiring me to keep daily entries tends to go the way of figurines from great aunts and bathroom wall-hangings – that is: dusty and forgotten.

But that book, I used.  Along with videos I found on sale at a department store (yeah, I’m thrifty), led by a lovely fitness coach whose name I no longer remember, but who was the perfect combination of cheery without being perky, and experienced without being obtuse.

I remember when downward dog made my arms ache after five seconds, and chaturanga consisted of a direct flop onto my chest.  But I laid my mat out in the backyard, and I sun saluted til my heart was full and the grass was flattened for the rest of the afternoon (much to my dad’s chagrin).

I haven’t become a yoga master in these last 12 years. I haven’t even become a yoga instructor. Sometimes my only practice is the 5 minute wake up series I do each morning, the bones of which I put together during those first years, some more advanced poses gradually worked in.

But it doesn’t matter if I can’t do a handstand without the wall, or I’m only just working toward bringing my foot to my head in King Pigeon.  One day I’ll get there, and if the goal is one thing that keeps me coming back to rest in child’s pose, that’s all I can ask for.

When I don’t do yoga, I feel pained – both physically and mentally. My brain is jumbled and my body is compressed.  But when I stretch out on that mat and sneak a glance to notice how my form has improved – my leg nearly straight in One-Legged Downward Dog, my hand finally flat on the ground in Extended Triangle – or when I remind myself to take a great, healing breath in Warrior II … that’s when I remember why I do yoga.

I do yoga for me.

And you should do yoga, for you.
 



Five Practical Reasons You Should Yoga

  1. It makes you bendy. When I pretzel into some weird pose while I’m on the couch watching TV, I remember yoga gave me the tools to become a noodle.
  2. Pull up your sock without dropping your take out. Focus on a spot up ahead, bend that knee into a kind of Tree Pose, and say goodbye to uncomfortably balled up stockings at the toe of your shoe!
  3. Insta-relax at work. A quick forward fold, or a seated twist not only releases tension in the back, neck, and shoulders, but also forces you to tear your eyes away from the computer screen for a few seconds.
  4. Yoga is besties with Sleep. The internet simply abounds with relaxation sequences. Akin to meditating, those calm, cool poses will clear your mind and chill out your body so you’re snoozing as soon as the light’s out.
  5. Happiness, yo. I don’t need to quote studies for you. Deep breathing, exalting the beauties of nature, selflessness – all these things tend to make people quite happy. And yoga tends to contribute to all these things.

IMG_4794 *Lou

Well, Rounded

I’ve been dabbling in visual art a lot these days.

Drawing is always something I’ve wished I was better at. Since it seems that the “waiting for my talent to steep by not drawing” approach just isn’t working, maybe setting a goal to draw every day, and posting some of those on here, will result in some sort of positive incentive.

So basically, send me cookies, please?


“Fae”

This one is from many eons ago (read: university), and I’ve always kind of liked it, simple as it is. If I remember correctly, I just doodled the outer shape on the paper and it begged me to turn it into a whatever-this-is.

As Michelangelo famously said, “I saw the angel in the marble, and I carved until I set him free.”

fae-colourized-watermark

And no, I did not just compare myself to Michelangelo.

*Lou