Knowing

616217_4075993291525_1647459565_oYou’ve heard the phrase “knowledge is power.” I’ve been thinking about this. Information is a useful thing. Especially information about yourself and how you handle things, react to things. Knowing yourself makes life easier and nicer. It helps you engage more deeply with the world, to want to engage more deeply. It helps you avoid pitfalls and obstacles, or at least accept them and move through them more gracefully. Even things you don’t really want to know, the stuff you avoid knowing, is necessary to look at, finally.

Most of what you know, you find out through experience. When you do something again and again, when you have a routine, you start to notice patterns. You start to notice whether or not these patterns are working, whether they make you feel good or bad. Just being aware of the pattern and how it feels might help you start to change it.

Sometimes you realize something out of the blue, and it seems so obvious, you don’t know why you didn’t see it before. Or someone tells you, and you can’t believe you needed someone to tell you. Or you didn’t realize it until you heard it in just those words. Or you finally admit something to yourself and see that it feels better to know it than to pretend you didn’t know.

Sometimes you need to do the work of finding out. You need to go to the doctor, or to therapy, or to AA. It’s not always fun, but ultimately it’s a relief to understand. And to have some guidance about what to do next.

Because once you know things, you can’t just sit around and know them. You need to use them, to apply them. That, I believe, is living fully.

Here a few things I know about myself:

— I am not a morning person.

— I’m funny.

— I’m a little boy-crazy, even at 41 (see Simon Le Bon, Robert Downey Jr., et. al.).

— I get snappish when I’m frustrated or distracted.

— I get quiet when I’m tired.

— I get skinny when I’m sad.

— I love being with people, but I’m also a homebody.

— I like to feel on top of things, and to have things in order.

— I’m a recovering perfectionist.

— I couldn’t live without books and music.

— I’m stronger than I used to think I was.

— I subscribe to The Four Agreements.

— I think there’s some higher, divine order to the universe. I don’t really need to know more than that.

Here are a few things I know about myself and yoga:

— I am not afraid of backbends and never have been, even though opening your chest and heart brings all sorts of emotions to the surface.

— Lately, I actually love them, because I finally figured out how to really get my shoulder blades down my back.

— My left thigh bone doesn’t fit perfectly into the hip socket. The right one absolutely does. Things that feel great on my right sometimes hurt on the left. It’s frustrating, but I can work with it.

— I have a bit of scoliosis in my lumbar spine. It curves out to the left a bit. This makes me tip that way sometimes. I can work with that.

— My Achilles tendons get tight, and pressing down through my outer foot helps in poses like triangle.

— I tend to tuck my chin into my chest, and I have to remember (or be reminded) to lift it. This makes breathing easier and nicer.

— I can’t yet kick up into a handstand, but one day I will.

— I really don’t enjoy utkatasana (chair pose) or warrior 1  (seriously, what is with the placement of the back foot?). I adore ustrasana  (camel), and I also really love and appreciate ardha chandrasana  (half moon).

— The Universal Principles of Alignment are key, no matter what we’re calling them these days or who made them up. In yoga and in life.

Here are a few things I know about myself and running:

— I don’t do well in humidity. I prefer 35 degrees to 75 degrees.

— I like to run in the morning, but not too early in the morning (in the summer, this is going to have to change).

— I love running outside and detest the treadmill.

— I can run in a snowstorm or a rainstorm.

— I need to drink a lot of water before and after, because otherwise I get dehydrated, and I also get a horrible headache.

—  If my knees or ankles start to hurt, it helps to pull in to the midline (yoga trick).

— I can go six miles, which means I can probably go 12 miles. Or maybe even 13.1.

Today on my run I decided that when I’m going downhill, I really feel like a runner. (And I’m from the Midwest, so every slight rise is a hill.) Uphill, not so much. Of course, I know the reason for this: gravity. Downhill, I can go faster, my form is better, and I just feel good, strong, capable. Uphill, I struggle, slow down, breathing is tougher. I feel like I’m puttering along, and I certainly don’t feel masterful.

However, I do know that the hill won’t last forever, and that I can do it. I will make it to the top.

And then I’ll get to coast down again.

Advertisements

These Are the Good Old Days

We celebrate Easter in a purely secular way (colored eggs, chocolate bunnies, jellybeans), but I’ve always liked the symbolism of the holiday: rebirth, new life, cleansing, celebration. The dark days are over, and there’s nothing but light ahead. Spring. It’s a heady time, with the arrival of the sun and the warmth (slowly but surely) and the green buds everywhere. It won’t be long before the school year ends, and summer, my favorite season, is just over the horizon.

It’s a time to sigh with relief after such a long, hard winter. To look around at all the good and feel grateful for it. To consider the people and things that make you feel content and peaceful and strong, and to appreciate them.

My yoga teacher Emma recently posted on Facebook, “These are the good old days.” I’d heard that before, and she reminded me how much I love it. It’s such a great way to put things in the right perspective — for me, to revel in moments like my older daughter losing her front tooth, or my younger one telling a sophisticated joke. Reading books all together in the evenings. Snuggling in the mornings. Watching them dance or run or laugh. Going for ice cream on Saturdays after swim lessons.

And even just my own moments: Passing a deer while I’m running in the reservation. Listening to a particularly harmonic “Om” in yoga class. Dharma dinners. Getting my tattoos. Sitting at my computer and writing and feeling so happy that I’ve made it a daily part of my life again.

Every day will one day be a memory. These are the stories we’ll tell years from now. We’ll sit and think about how great it all was. We’ll miss it. So while I’m here, in these moments, I’d like to try to enjoy the greatness while it’s happening.

I was there when my father passed away, in my childhood bedroom. Every life will end in one simple moment, in the time it takes to inhale and exhale. It makes sense to spend as many moments as you can up to that one being present and feeling grateful for the opportunity. Not every moment will feel good — some will be downright unbearable. I don’t think it’s our job to pretend they aren’t. It’s not even our job to be strong enough to bear them. We only need to be present with what is.

I am in a pretty good place. It’s not perfect, but it’s a place where I really want to be. It feels comfortable and stable. I got here on my own steam, and I’m proud of that. It’s a good old day.