Tag Archives: Purpose

A New Path: Thai Yoga Bodywork

For the last eight days I was in training to learn levels 1 and 2 of Thai Yoga Bodywork (there are six levels to get certified). It was difficult, and gratifying, and purposeful, and I learned so much more than just the curriculum! I felt for the first time in a very long time that I was going down a path that was worth pursuing. Even though it was hard, it felt right to me. I’m excited to share my experience, but first there are a couple things I would like to clear up! The main thing that friends and family have asked when they heard about this pursuit is:

What is Thai Yoga Bodywork?

Often referred to as Thai Massage or “Lazy Man’s Yoga,” it is officially called nuad boaran in the Thai language. It’s kind of difficult to explain until you experience it, but here is a pretty good explanation:

So what is Thai Massage? Well, for one thing, it’s not massage as we know it in the West. In fact, it is unfortunate that the term “Thai massage” has become so popular because that second word, massage, is misleading and inaccurate. Massage tables or oil aren’t used, there is no rubbing on the skin or kneading of the muscles, and the receiver remains clothed. The goal is not to work muscles , fascia, tendons, ligaments, organs and soft tissue, though these anatomical elements are positively affected by the work. Neither is its purpose to simply stretch and apply passive yoga to another person on a floor mat. At its essence, nuad boaran is a balanced blend of physical, energetic, and spiritual healing techniques and concepts. It is the skillful combination of applying both broad and targeted acupressure, finding and dissolving blockages, stimulating energy lines (sen), opening and toning the body with yoga-like stretches, and last but not least, allowing and encouraging the receiver to engage in a process of self healing, deep relaxation, and renewal.

Bob Haddad, Thai Massage & Thai Healing Arts: Practice, Culture and Spirituality

For a little more detail and some photos, check out this page at the Thai Healing Alliance International site.

What the heck made me decide to pursue this?!

Contrary to how it may appear on the surface, I’ve had a long-term interest in natural health and healing. I’ve also had a long-term interest in spirituality. I’ve done a TON of reading and thinking about both, but hadn’t really found a strong application for either interest. Well, I guess maybe it would be more appropriate to say that I hadn’t really applied myself to either interest. At any rate, a lot of this blog has been about me being stuck (it is sad, but true, that the blog is nearly 8 years old. Which means I have been feeling stuck for that long! Yikes! By the way – I deleted most of the old stuff because I’m wanting to refresh). I have just felt kind of dead inside most of the time. Not like I haven’t felt love or happiness at all, but more like I’m just existing: going to work day after day at a job that doesn’t excite me at all, so I can pay bills for things that don’t really mean very much to me, and spend my weekends drinking or watching TV or whatever to drown out the apathy and create a false sense of joy (some of the drinking was fun with friends! But you get the picture – not exactly a healthy hobby!). Life just didn’t seem to have much color.

Over the last seven years I have been making v e r y s l o w progress on getting myself unstuck. There have been many minor epiphanies that have created subtle changes in my thinking/worldview, but no big changes in my behavior. At some point back in February I had a huge babababaBANG kind of epiphany that made me decide to sign up for the Thai Bodywork training. Here is the epiphany: maybe I just don’t want to be a writer. And then: maybe I just really don’t care that much about art anymore. TaDa!

aha momentsI have thought that I wanted to be a writer for my whole life. Because I think I’m pretty good at it. I also thought I wanted to have some kind of path related to visual art. While I was growing up I produced a ton of writing and art, starting at an early age, because I really enjoyed both. But at some point during college I stopped doing both art and writing for the most part. I graduated from college in 2001, which means that I have spent 14 years (not to mention $40,000 on a master’s degree) trying to beat myself into pursuing dreams that had ceased to be dreams. I thought I had a giant fear complex. I thought I was just too insecure. I thought I was lazy and unfocused. I thought so many things that basically amounted to “I’m not good enough.” The truth is that I had built so much of my self-image around those dreams that it never once occurred to me that maybe I just wasn’t interested and didn’t want to do it anymore. You guys, this was completely mind-blowing!

It took me about a month to grieve my old dreams…then I started thinking seriously about what I really DO care about. I asked myself: what are the things that excite you? What are the articles that you actually read? What are the stories that you tune into? What are the conversations about that you most enjoy? They are about lives, spirituality, nature, natural health, environmentalism, and freedom. What do these things have in common? HEALING.

So combine the epiphany, my interests (including my love of yoga), and the business that my husband just started (bodywork), and Thai yoga bodywork seemed like a natural place to start in a new direction!

AND THEN, lo and behold…once I figured out that writing isn’t my Path (with a capital P), and am doing something that feels right for me, suddenly I feel like writing again! Go figure.

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Renewal

I have recently been feeling a big pull towards the concept of renewal. It makes sense. It’s spring time, and the winter sucked really hard this year. But I am feeling it in a way that is a little more intense than the norm. I think a lot of it comes from living on a farm, and just being more generally in touch with what nature is doing. Living here forces me to take a more active part in the cycles of the seasons. During the winter I had to learn to just sit with myself a little bit more than I’ve been used to. When big snowstorms came through it could be days before the roads were reasonable for driving into the city. There were several times where we had to cancel plans with friends because, even a couple of days after the storm, it would have taken us hours of stressful driving to connect with them. No plan, no matter how longstanding, is completely within my control out here. When nature has other plans, I simply need to relinquish my will to her.

Being forced to let go has changed me. I have a long-term habit of trying to control my environment in order to feel O.K. I have done this with my behavior and also with my thoughts and judgements. I know that most people do this; it’s what we call “ego.” This strange idea that simply having consciousness means that we also have control. Over and over again in my life I have made careful plans to try to control “my” world, and over and over again the real world has said “fuck you, chicky. This is not how I want it to go and I’m bigger than you.” The point of this blog was, as the name implies, to document my roadmap, my plan, to gain further control over my world. What I’ve learned is that I don’t, and can’t, have control. Trying to wrest control from the universe has actually been the biggest cause of distress and backwards movement.

I wish that I could say that over the long winter I took advantage of having so much unfettered time to myself (true to the story that I always told myself “I just don’t have time to write, exercise, meditate, etc.). What really happened was that, while having to sit with myself, I spent most of my time trying to escape myself. In the absence of my old city-living mode of escapism,hyper-socialization, I turned to higher levels of solo escapist activities: unhealthy and excessive eating, too much TV, too much drinking. Even reading novels can take on an obsessive quality for me. For a couple of months I was in the midst of the deepest depression I’ve had since I nearly lost it at the tail end of completing my master’s degree. I was dwelling a lot on everything that I have not accomplished in my life, and on how my life seemed to just be happening to me in ways in which I didn’t want to participate . I felt hopeless and dead inside, and as usual, couldn’t seem to conjure up the energy to do anything about it.

I’ve known for awhile that I am an escape artist. I can look back at my life and see a clear road to “anywhere else but here, with anyone else but myself,’ wildly zig-zagging and wrapping around and through the hard lines of control that I try to draw for myself. It is the counter-balance to the part of me that wants to control and be too perfect to ever really accomplish or create anything of value because life is messy. After being forced to hang out with myself more, I know more deeply than ever before that the escape-artist in me is there to keep me from seeing the things about myself and my life that I don’t want to see. In it’s most recent incarnation, it has been padding me from the whole idea that I have no control, when the truth is that taking one’s hands off the wheel isn’t the same as being a victim.

I started to come out of the depression in February, and have since been actively poking at the things in my life that scare me. I am still scared, but am coming round to the idea that in order to get past some things, I have to actually go through them. When your hands are off the wheel, your vehicle can go in any direction. It can go to places that scare you, or it can go to places that exceed all expectations of joy. Either way, if you jump out of a moving vehicle you are going to get hurt. The point is that I have to step into my various roles in life. That doesn’t just mean the parts that I “like” or feel safe in. Being able to observe myself a bit more closely than usual out in the country, I didn’t just see what I was doing via my escape-artist, I felt it. In the past I have beat myself up over returns to deep escapism. This time I have some compassion for the fearful parts of myself. However, I feel like the winter was a death-rattle of a lot of self-destructive parts of me. It was a final tantrum of the escape-artist. Now, little by little, I’ve been stepping back into my life. Even the scary parts. It feels like a revival, and even though I’m still uncomfortable, I’m grateful for it.

Whoooo Aaaare Yoooou?

Yesterday I addressed some identity issues that I’ve been having related to detoxifying. I have written a bit about who I have wanted to be, and who I have been, but I haven’t really addressed who I want to be now. The truth is that I have been hazy on that point, and that’s been a problem. I have said something about who I don’t want to be: I don’t want to be a sanctimonious health nut, and I don’t want to party my spirit away. So, perhaps it would be helpful to me to further dissect who I don’t want to be?

To me, the definition of the sanctimonious health nut is a person who is not open to further explorations in how to live and does not respect where others are on their journey. So, I guess that tells me that I want to do my best to remain receptive to different ways of doing things, to be non-judgmental about opinions that differ from mine, and to be compassionate towards those who are struggling on their path. God knows that I have been grateful for the kindness I’ve been shone by some others on my path. If I’m in a place where I can be helpful to someone else, I definitely want to do it. But I don’t want to be preachy; I intimately know how feeling judged can contribute to derailment. Furthermore, I don’t want to be culty, subscribing to a rigid set of beliefs about the right or wrong way to live.

I don’t want to submit to the false belief that being healthy is synonymous with being boring. I live in a neighborhood that is chock-full of artsy hipsters. A lot of partying happens here, and a lot of the glamor that I fell victim to in my twenties is all around me. As I’m walking around the neighborhood, I often wistfully observe my neighbors and wish that I was still young and in that exciting go-go-go phase of life. I feel like a dowdy old lady in my yoga pants and sensible running shoes. There needs to be an adjustment made in my perception of excitement and balance being mutually exclusive. I’m not 22, I’m 32, and I have had a painful time of realizing that the go-go-go lifestyle does not work for me. I need to be O.K. with that. But I also want to be sure not to grind to a halt and live my life in the past-tense of shoulda-coulda-didn’t.

O.K., so I need to strike a balance between partying like a has-been rockstar, and being too rigid. Good, that’s a start. Essentially, I want to be a person who is still fun, silly, crazy, weird, and joyful while also being observant, sincere, loving, diligent, and kind. I know that I have all those things in me because that is where I started from in my late teens. I just have to remember that all of those things are in me without having to involve any “props.”

A Time of Preparation

Although I frequently allude to spirituality here, it’s pretty rare for me to talk much about religion. Overall, I think it’s safe to say that I’m not big on organized religion at all. I’m not into dogma; though I believe religion can do very good things for people, I don’t think that any particular religion has the golden key to “salvation.”  That being said, I have no problem still self-identifying as what is perceived to be one of the most dogmatic faiths around: Catholic. There’s some further clarification in this post, if you care to know more about my perspective on the topic!

Anyhow, today is Ash Wednesday, which is the beginning of Lent. Lent is a 6 week time of preparation before Easter (the resurrection of Christ, and for a lot of Christians and our not-so-subtly-hidden pagan histories, the official start of spring). It is meant to be a time of contemplation, and a time of penitence. I am fine with contemplation part, but penitence (which essentially means deep remorse and shame for what a rotten person you are) doesn’t really jive with me so much. Personally I feel like Jesus would be more down with me spending this preparation time getting ready to be a better person than beating the crap out of myself. So, contemplation of where I’ve gone wrong and where I can improve is fine.  Self-punishment: not so much.

Since I’m not into penitence, I haven’t really given anything up for Lent since I moved out of my parents’ house.  Even when I did live at home, my parents weren’t that big on it either. We did not eat meat on Fridays during Lent, but that was about it. However, this year it has dawned on me, in relation to Lent, that giving things up doesn’t necessarily have to be self-punishment. It can be an exercise in contemplation and preparation as well. Duh. Fasting has been used in all sorts of spiritual practices for a billion years.

Accordingly, I have chosen this time to do an elimination diet. This means that I am giving up a lot of stuff. However, rather than punishing myself, I look at this as a a time to face some demons (physical addictions as well as emotional struggles) and come out with better clarity of mind and vitality of spirit. Seems like a perfect Lenten practice for me!

I will be posting about the diet, and lots of other wellness-related things, in more detail on my BRAND NEW health and wellness blog, The Cranky Hippie (more tomorrow about the decision to start a new blog on top of this one that I haven’t been consistent with)!

Finally, on top of the elimination diet and being a more consistent blogger, I might try to delve back into The Artist’s Way as a means to kind of jump-start my spirit/intellect a bit.The hubby and I have made a point of keeping our social calendars pretty clear during this time so we can rest and have down time to recharge our batteries for spring. But I will have to see how I’m feeling with the other changes.  Elimination diets (also somewhat of a “cleanse”) can be kind of difficult and draining at times, so I want to be sure to not press myself too hard. We’ll see how it goes!

Creating a Life

Lately I’ve been focusing a lot on food and health on this blog, but that is not the only fish I’ve got to fry! What of my art goals for 2010? Well, I have not resumed The Artist’s Way. I have not joined a writer’s group, and I have not started guitar lessons (yet). However, I don’t feel like I’m suffering for lack of creative outlets.

I haven’t started doing the creative endeavors that I set out to do this year because I’ve been pretty busy. I’ve been busy in a good way. For one thing, I have been doing a lot of editing lately. As David has been working on getting marketing materials together for his massage practice, and cover letters together for job applications, I’ve been busy helping him to craft messages that are good representations of him and what he believes in. I’ve also been asked to look at several cover letters for friends recently, which is fun for me. Editing is something that I’m good at, and it feels good to use something I’m good at to help people out. Many people may not realize that editing is actually quite creative. It’s a real creative challenge to take something that somebody else has written and tweak it to suit his or her audience while still retaining his or her “voice.”

Editing aside, I have also been learning HTML. The main reason that I set out to learn it is for career development. Many writing positions are now web-based. Even though I already know how to use several web editors, most web-based positions require at least a basic HTML knowledge. The second reason for learning it is that I am slowly but surely building a (very basic) website for David’s practice. I know that there are a lot of cheap services that we could use to create a website for him; we may still use one of them to build something fancier. But right now it’s good for me to have a specific project as I’m learning. It helps reinforce the knowledge. I have been finding the project very inspiring.

I haven’t put a whole lot of action into creating a career path for myself recently. At least not directly (above and beyond HTML!). But I have been working on it; at the very least I’ve been working on it at an emotional and intellectual level. This kind of thing takes a lot of thought; a lot of working through issues that I didn’t know I had. It takes up a lot of head space.

Another piece of the puzzle is trying to whip my body back into shape. I won’t hover on this topic very much right now, since I already do a lot of that on this blog, but attempting to re-create one’s body is actually very creative. So much creativity and interest goes into pouring over recipes, making food choices, designing meal plans, choosing exercise routines, and cooking. It’s much more artistic than I have ever thought it could be.

Finally, though it hasn’t been reflected much yet in the consistency of my posts, this blog has also been enormously inspiring for me. For one thing, it has brought me back to the page. It has got me writing (in public – yikes!) after a long absense of the will to write. It has me feeling exploratory, and really thinking about what it is that I want to write. There are trillions of topics to pursue, and just simply writing about my own journey through “getting my act together” has really been helping me to figure out what my secondary passions (after words) are.

I feel fulfilled right now, with the creative end of my life. It’s a new revelation that simply creating my life can fulfill that creative urge within me. Therefore, I’m not going to come down too hard on myself for not hitting the specific goals that I set out for myself a month ago. I am excited to move on to learning new things, and creating new things. But right now my life seems pretty full!

Letting Go

Colors

©2007, Chaos to Clarity

I have been stuck on Week 3 in the Artist’s Way for two months. Sad, but true. I have still been intermittently writing my pages and going on Artist Dates; but I haven’t really been sticking with the program; doing the exercises, etc. The biggest reason that people give for falling out of the Artist’s Way is that it is so time consuming. This is true. It does take quite a bit of time; at least an hour per day. I think that the other reason that people fall out of it is that it requires you to dig in and touch places that you might not want to touch. In fact, it requires you to poke those places especially hard, because they could be the places that are most likely keeping you blocked. It feels easier to walk away from the path that you know you should be on than it does to to face the things that are keeping you off from it. However, it doesn’t make much sense to embrace a lifetime of anxiety because you aren’t doing what you are meant to do in favor of temporary relief.

The first three weeks of the program have a lot to do with letting go of impediments, whether it is letting go of your inner critic/editor, or letting go of toxic relationships with other people. I made it through the first two chapters with flying colors, and took the major step of going public with this blog. I did that even though I was terrified to show my writing to anyone. The way I look at the world has changed a lot from just those two weeks. However, Week 3 is something that I clearly have a problem with. It is called “Recovering a Sense of Power.”

The hard thing about chapter 3 is that to recover a sense of power, you also need to take responsibility. You need to look at what you are doing that robs you of a sense of control over your own destiny, and at what other people in your life are doing to do the same. I think that the reason that I have been stuck here is that I have a problem with letting go. Of anything. I am a pack-rat, both physically and emotionally. I am a big fan of shrouds and safety blankets. I like, to a certain extent, security. This means that I have trouble letting go of anything that I once hid behind, particularly images. This is what makes it hard for me to completely let go of smoking. I have trouble letting go of anything that can be an excuse; like being fat, or being too “busy,” for example. I have trouble letting go of anything that has been in my life for a long time; like toxic relationships. All of these years I have thought that I have no will power. No strength. The truth is that I have extreme tenacity and an unusually strong will, but that I have been using those character attributes against myself rather than for myself. I already have the tools, I just need to work on transforming them.

My guiding question right now is, in the words of a famous hash-smoking caterpillar, “whoooooo are yooou?” I feel like at this point in time I have a pretty good grasp on who I am at my core.  The exercises in Chapter 3 have helped me find that person even more. Now I  need to work on becoming that person outwardly, and to do that I need to hold on to her, and let go of the other things that are trying to destroy her. When I can do that, I will know that my sense of power is recovered. The thought of feeling really in control of my own destiny has been creeping in for me, and is really exciting, rather than terrifying as it has been in the past. I plan to finish my Chapter 3 exercises and do my artist date tonight and tomorrow. It will feel good to finally charge forward again!