This winter is brutal...rugged...challenging...fun. Really I love winter. I can't complain when the snow piles high, the wind snaps my cheeks, and each trek out of doors is an mini-adventure of survival, testing my will to endure. How can I not laugh with maniacal glee when a trip to the grocery store feels like a tundra expedition to the arctic? When I have to muster up the courage to step out of my toasty vehicle to procure my sustenance?
I am done with the chapped lips, the cracking knuckles, the sore nostrils, and the hang nails. The parts of winter that beleaguer the body are trials I could live without. Though, if I can't have the adventure without the hardship, I'll take the hardship. It makes me feel fierce and it makes me appreciate warm days and yoga.
In fact, I just finished a yoga practice focused on building courage and fierceness of heart. It was filled with heat-building heart and throat openers, grounding hip-flexor movement, and strength-building stillness. It made me feel so warm and so good. And, at first, I didn't want to do it.
Just how winter makes me not want to step out of my house, makes me not want to brave the biting wind to get groceries and order in for a cozy dinner, how it makes me want to opt out of the ice skating or snowboarding I love and retreat to the warm fireside couch, it makes me want to curl up with a book instead of getting on my mat. It's those moments I need my practice most. I need to have the courage to face the first cold moments. I need to have the courage to do what I say I'll do.
This week, I'll teach that same class to the tenants of the 701 building in downtown Minneapolis and I think we'll get good and warm. In the meantime, I wrote a poem inspired by this long, long winter.
Yoga is an excellent platform from which to study the surreal.
Yoga teaches both awareness and humility (we are all matter, matter is the universe).
Surreal is defined as having the characteristics of surrealism/bizarre; and bizarre is defined as something unusual or strange, especially causing amusement.
I think practicing yoga grows our ability to embrace the surreal. Picture an entire room of adults sitting on the floor attempting to put their feet behind their head? From the sidelines, that would take on a sepia tone of incredulity. When in the moment, it's putting to rights what the unbelievable corporate and corporeal punishment of ridiculously cruel long hours with our eyes glued to screens and poor bottoms glued to our chairs has brought us. What is surreal is that we clamor for grounding, connection, and reality.
Recently I had the supreme pleasure of attending the local Creative Mornings chapter to hear Chris Pennington speak on the topic of "Surreal". I hadn't been to a talk since August of 2017, the auspicious Mary Jo Hoffman talk that kicked off my journey round the sun with poetry. So I was eager and attentive to everything Chris had to say, and it was, surreal. Strange and amusing and glorious. In the circuitous and disparate paths Chris' story would take us upon throughout his hour long talk Chris name dropped Salvador Dali, Derek Jeter, Banksy, the FBI, and Chris Cloud. I was especially excited about the Chris Cloud name drop as I attended undergraduate classes at the University of Minnesota with Chris. What'up, Chris (that's me hoping/pretending Chris Cloud might read my blog). Additionally, he used the word "ass-ton" which I haven't had the pleasure of hearing in a key-note address before (yet another reason I love Creative Mornings), and he coined the word "catacomby", right there, live! As we were listening!
It felt surreal and so right sitting in that room with open and creative minds. I listened to him talk as I watched a construction crane gracefully moving a large rock outside the window of the Science Museum with the gorgeous backdrop of the wintry Mississippi River. I felt connected to everyone around me in our amusement in Chris' harrowing tale of exploring a "catacomby scary-ass basement" armed only with a bic lighter and borrowed courage from a chained man in a suit doing performance art in the floor above. Laughing along with Chris at the hilarity of life, I realized what was different about his talk, humble candor. Most speakers talk about their hard work leading up to success, Chris had us holding our sides as he explained the query "what chicken video?" and why he can't go back to New York City.
Through all the chuckles and the laughs he also managed some great messages. I heard the message that failure can lead to relationships that leads to success; that being smart about how art is funded is vital; that we are already connected through art and we can connect even more to each other. As a parting encouragement, Chris called on us to ask what we could do together to add to the greatness of the Twin Cities. Which brings me back to yoga. To yoke. To join. I so much agree with Chris Pennington. It is our responsibility to enhance our world because we are connected. We can appreciate the strange. We can emphasize what brings us closer. We can embrace with humility our small stitch in the fabric of time. We can laugh and share the joke that it's all surreal.
Three days in and I've thought about writing poems more times than I can count. I concluded last week that even though I'm not doing another poetry challenge for 2019, I will still write poems whenever they come to me and, well, I have...mostly. Last night as I drifted off to dreamland I had a fleeting beginning to a poem and I didn't roll over to capture it on the paper beside my bed. So, sorry.
It happened again though, more recently, the urge to capture my thoughts. And so I did.
I feel pretty good. Pretty darn good.
It's the first day of 2019 and I'm taking a second to reflect back on the whirlwind of a year that was 2018 and I have to say, I'm satisfied. No Regerts (as the meme says).
I remember this time 2017, writing my post reflecting on my ambitious goal setting and resolving to set fewer goals - which I, erm, sort of did. In 2017 I had set 4 categories of goals with 19 "sub-goals", let's call them. Here's where it got tricky. If you take the large categories, I completed 3 out of 4 (or 75%) but if you take the 19 sub-goals, I accomplished a measly 36% of them. Fast forward to 2018, I was doing the same thing, reflecting, and goal setting and here we are today. I am happy to report that in 2018 I had set 17 goals (so...2 fewer) and I accomplished 58% of them. Whew. 58% .
Now, I'm not just counting widgets here. I also do a deep-down reflection on ensuring the goals I set relate to my purpose, to my mission. And, if you've read any of my previous posts, you've probably concluded my mission is to help others find peace and go through life with ease. Whoa, what do I mean by that? Lately, when I read that phrase, and the phrase I have written on the home page, I get concerned I'm giving the impression that I think we should only do things that are easy and comfortable. Which is not at all what I mean. What I'm saying, is that with the right attitude, the right state of mind, the right tools, all experiences can be brought to comfort and ease. It's the premise through yoga, that with a mind to body connection, we can truly dictate how we experience being. Just with a yoga pose you try for the first time, take....fire log pose. Perhaps you get into it and the first few seconds your hips are tight and on fire and it's discomfort not pain so you sit with it a while, and maybe you are in a yin class so you sit with it for longer. And the music is playing and your instructor reminds you to breathe and suddenly you're no longer thinking about the discomfort, you're just being, and when your yoga teacher calls for you to notice, to see what's different, you realize that you've sunk deeper into the hip opening than you thought possible, and the discomfort has vanished, or it hasn't, it doesn't matter, because there's no judgement. And maybe, over time, you'll feel no discomfort at all, even though what your body is accomplishing is ambitious and amazing. That's comfort and ease. So did I get closer with my goals in 2018 to bringing that about? Yes, I think I did.
So, let's go deeper into those 10 out of 17 goals accomplished. One thing that Ross, my spouse, and I did together as a family is we committed to not buying red meat and only having red meat at restaurants or as venison (a gift from my parents). It has worked out great and we are keeping it up in 2019. To me, eating less red meat aligns with the first yama in yoga philosophy, ahimsa, or non-violence. Ahimsa is about being compassionate to yourself and others and I include living creatures and mother nature in that category and therefore, not eating red meat is bringing comfort and ease to all earthlings. Check, check, on goal #1 for 2018.
Goal #2 was to write a poem every day for the entire year. Big check on that one. Great big check. It aligns with my mission in that I hope it prompted some creativity and authentic reflection for others which might ultimately lead to comfort and ease. As the title of this post suggests, I wanted to articulate how I feel now that I've followed through on my commitment to myself. It really is a good feeling to follow through on what I said I would do and live with integrity. Ultimately, that goal was a promise to myself. I kept it, which makes me trust myself even more. Even if it did nothing else, I feel as though that exercise gave me a baseline, a metric, against which I can measure my abilities. I know that I can hold myself to a creative commitment for an entire year! After that, maybe I can do anything!? Also, I really enjoyed it. I have to thank Mary Jo Hoffman from Shoreview, MN who inspired the entire goal. It was her talk at Creative Mornings MSP that prompted me to delve deep into what creative outlet I truly enjoyed and figure out a realistic yet challenging goal to set for myself. And I did it! And it worked! I have already enjoyed looking back at my poems from 2018 to see what my year held. It became a stylistic journal of sorts and I think I will treasure it always.
Will I write a poem a day in 2019? Nah. Will I continue to write poems? Absolutely. I am way better at catching that stray thought that holds a poem and capturing it readily. I know I'll continue to be inspired to write my world up into poems. I also want to take some time to review the poems I've written and see where they could improve. I said at the beginning that I never expected many of my poems to be amazing, I was just hoping to spread some comfort and ease with an outlet for creativity.
The rest of my goals ranged from home projects, creative projects, and even relationships. The were widespread and I'm glad I did nearly 60% of them.
My goals for 2019 are simple. I made 16 of them. In general, I aim to create more than I consume (which I'll do by reading fewer books for leisure, 48 compared to 110 in 2018). Again we're committing to not buying red meat. And, in Moonswept Yoga goals, I plan to host my very first Yogetry Workshop. It's Yoga + Poetry. I've already begun planning and I'm ecstatic! My "create more than I consume goal" encompasses so much and will do so much to support my mission. I have a million book, painting, and crafting ideas in my head that just need some time and dedication to come to fruition. Time and dedication. Now that I've written 365 poems in 365 days, I think I know what to do.
I'd love to hear what your goals were for 2018 and how they turned out - or what you're looking ahead to for 2019. Am I the only one who does a statistical analysis on their goal setting? ;) Let me know!
Thanks for reading -
I think about mother earth a lot. In fact, one of my resolutions for 2019 is to start doing kitchen composting and take our compost to the nearest commercial compost site as frequently as we have to. So I thought it would be fitting to end the year with a plea for our planet.
You know what I did. Also, I've got the year-end fizz. I'm mostly always line 2 and every other line and sometimes line 1 creeps in.
It has come to my attention that I've messed up my count. I find that mess up both predictable and terribly amusing.
I'm trying real hard today and the second truth of Buddhism is feeling particularly true..."the root of all suffering is desire"...
As a student of anthropology and a lover of literature, I'm often curious about how language passes along our histories.
To negate all those reasons we come up with for self-loathing, here are some reasons to love yourself.
I make a promise to myself to resist urges of complacency, to adopt new technology even when I think "what I have is already working" so that I may never wake up one day and realize the future's "email" technology is beyond my grasp. I see so many people who failed to adapt 20 years ago to a technology that was already widely embraced. As we approach 2020, I also promise to be patient with those who are starting to try because I will be them some day.
I read this disturbing article today about our nations alcohol problem. Healing starts with awareness.
While I agree that humans need breaks and play, I also believe that it's easy to fall into a loop of constant gratification through escapism.
Creative enthusiast, gregarious naturalist, opinionated activist, RYT 200. Amy Kay Czechowicz completed a poetry challenge for 2018 by posting an original poem daily to this blog! You can read those and more by clicking and exploring below!