Tag Archives: Buddhism

The Skinny on Good

Thursday I had my weekly yoga for singing/songwriting lesson swap with Lisa Linehan. She posted about it afterwards in a blog called “So Many Good Things”. I know exactly how she feels. Because it’s exactly how I feel. There have just been SO MANY GOOD THINGS lately. And quite frankly, it’s starting to freak my ass out just a little bit.

Here’s the link to Lisa’s blog: Project Husband

OMG. I FINALLY figured out how to make links happen on here. Another good thing! So what’s so bad about good anyways? Isn’t good good? Sure. But here’s the rub: The soul train doesn’t ditch its schedule and stay in the station, just cause you’re ready to party. The need for personal work and growth continues, regardless of how good you feel right now. We have this tendency when things go wrong to get serious, buckle down, and really work on things to improve our plight. Nobody wants to suffer. But, what happens when we think we’ve gotten what we want? Party time. Excellent. Then what? We wake up one day to find we’ve no longer got what we want anymore.

I’ve been a weight yo-yoer almost my entire life. Weight control issues and obesity run deep on both sides of my family. I was told by my Grandmother at a very young age that I’d never be able to eat what I wanted, would always have to watch it, or that I’d be fat my whole life. I’m 5’2 1/2″, and in my adult life have weighed anywhere from 110 – 145, neither of which were healthy.  To put it in perspective for the taller ladies – that equates to  2-12 dress sizes. For the men – a 26″ to a 31″ pants size.

One such round of yo-yo is shown below.  The shot on the left is me, with my adorable baby brother, circa Spring of 2000. The one to the right is me, with my dive computer, circa Summer of 2001.

Circa March 2000Circa Summer 2001

I started working out in a gym regularly at the age of 12 (not accidentally the same age that I discovered boys). I had tried sports in school (volleyball, track, basketball, soccer), but always seemed to suck at them. So began my love/hate relationship with the gym. Basically, I love being in shape, but hate working out. I’m pretty sure the gym is indifferent on the subject. The pattern that emerged, starting in high school around 1993, and lasting through the end of 2007 went as follows:

  1. Gain weight.
  2. Freak out about gaining of said weight. Stew over it for some indeterminate amount of time.
  3. Go to gym every day for months. Treadmill. Stair climb. Weight Lift. Spin. Step. Kick. Punch. CRUNCH.
  4. Beat self up if miss a day. Or two.
  5. Simultaneously eat nothing but grilled chicken, salad, yogurt, fruits and vegetables.
  6. Try not to drink. It’s fattening and helped us get into this mess in the first place. Thanks a lot, beer.
  7. Pre-2005: Try not to smoke.
  8. Get skinny. And bitchy. Working out incessantly, not eating and not having fun sucks.
  9. Resume eating. Drinking. Being Merry.
  10. Return to step 1. Repeat.

What finally broke this turbulent 15 year cycle is, in hindsight (of course), simple. It was consciousness. Presence to what I was doing. I started watching “The Biggest Loser”. I began tracking what I was doing on Weight Watchers Online. I read LOTS on food and nutrition. I joined a yoga studio and started studying yoga philosophy. One component of that philosophy is self-observation or study. So I started investigating why I ate, exercised and thought the way I did. I started listening to my body regarding what types of foods it wanted, when it wanted them, and how much it wanted.

I finally found a recipe that worked – paying attention. And my happiness level increased noticeably. Out with the days of self-torture and doubt, in with the days of deliciously enjoyable yoga practices, long walks outside and eating and drinking whatever I wanted – with presence. This simple recipe has kept me at my high school “skinny weight” since early 2009. Which is great. So what am I freaking out about now? Well, the recognition that life is always a practice, and that if we stop practicing when things get good, we’re likely to wind up back towards where we started at. Put another way: “Lack of introspection is a thief; it slinks behind when mindfulness abates. And all the merit we have gathered in it steals; and down we go to the lower realms” – Shantideva from “The Way of the Bodhisattva”

So I was stressed out in December, and sick in January. By the time I was healthy again in mid-February it seemed my whole world had withered. My career had shifted and was in a state of uncertainty and my social and dating lives had vanished. But then, just like my yoga teacher and friend Leanne Hall said would happen during class one day, my world blossomed once again, right along with the coming of Spring. The yoga studio I’m a partner of opened, old friends returned, new and amazing people arrived and I began writing and singing.

When I felt like poop I was taking uber good care of myself: eating stupid healthy, reading tons on life, spirituality and philosophy, doing lots of yoga and meditating twice daily. Now that I wake up wanting to hug life daily, I’m: eating stupid a lot, not doing lots of yoga and not meditating twice daily. The difference this time is that I don’t have to go through the pleasure of gaining 20 or 30 pounds to tune-in to the frequency. Work on balance. Ok. Got it.

Why do we have the tendency to get so carried away when we’re passionate about a new project, job, romantic interest or otherwise? Buddhist Philosophy would say it’s because our nature is to seek pleasure and avoid pain. Let’s face it, doing something you like and are good at and then being recognized for it feels amazing. So too does falling for someone new. Or landing that new dream job. Whatever the case may be. But just like the highs of these types of pleasures are really high, so too are the lows really low. Being fired is devastating. Being dumped, heartbreaking. So Buddhist wisdom says: Any pleasure that is capable of also bringing about pain can’t be a true source of happiness, with happiness being the meaning of life. Another principle in Buddhism is the practice of “non-attachment”. So they say it’s not about going without. It’s about enjoying what you have, with the recognition and appreciation that the only thing constant in life is change. It’s about living in the present.

IN SUMMATION: So instead of freaking out today, maybe I’ll just go to yoga. I’ve been wanting to check out Virginia Marum’s Balloga Class all week anyhow. =) The Dalai Lama said: “As human beings we all want to be happy and free from misery… we have learned that the key to happiness is inner peace. The greatest obstacles to inner peace are disturbing emotions such as anger, attachment, fear and suspicion, while love and compassion and a sense of universal responsibility are the sources of peace and happiness.”

PS: Dwayne and I were discussing the Live album “Secret Samadhi” yesterday (samadhi = state of bliss in yoga). Thanks to him for reacquainting me with the album (apparently I never gave it much of a shot)! Here’s a video of the track “Century”. Viva the ’90s. Enjoy. =)

The Tao of Jessica Simpson

Here we grow again. Spring. Somehow Dallas managed to get three inches of snow the first day this year. Yet whether snow lay on the ground or not, spring has sprung all the same. Sometimes things don’t happen as quickly as we’d like them to. We feel stuck. We get that feeling that things are never going to change. They’re never going to be the way that we want them to be. Truth is, of course, that we only appear stuck. Everything is always in motion. Just because we can’t see or feel the earth spinning doesn’t mean it’s not. Earlier I was faxing twenty million things for my law practice. I had a fax that just wouldn’t go through. I tried three times. I was stuck. Suddenly, for whatever reason, I decided to look at what I was faxing, instead of continuing to mindlessly feed it through the top loader of my machine repeatedly, wishing I was doing something besides faxing. It was actually the wrong document. I grabbed the right one, put it through my trusty Brother All-in-One, and away it went effortlessly.

Getting unstuck and change are most certainly in the air, seemingly everywhere. That magical prospect yet again. That glisten in your eye – the thought that 2010 could be your year. YUP. It most definitely could. I’ve watched laid-off friends pick themselves up by the bootstraps and form entirely new existences for themselves, coming out the other side not only unscathed, but with freedoms they’d never dreamed imaginable. I’ve watched friends go back to school and seek out the career they never even dared admit to themselves that they even wanted in the first place. I got another email recently from a friend who’s a big company VP that’s days away from embarking on a 2 month spiritual journey to India and Thailand. Another who quit his career all together and took a similar trip last year, recently moving out to LA to follow his passion and try to “make it” as a singer/songwriter. The stories go on and on, all the way to VH1.

I had yet another veggie sandwich last week at Buli on Cedar Springs with my friend Jordann. Although I’m uncertain as to whether or not she is aware of my penchant for a certain brand of reality TV, she all the same mentioned that Jessica Simpson had a new show called “The Price of Beauty” on VH1, when we were talking about my blog (I’d included Jessica in a previous rant entitled “John Mayerhem”).

In her new show, Jessica plans to travel the world with two friends, exploring the price women pay to feel beautiful, and hopes to grow what she considers to be true beauty – the kind on the inside.  In the series premiere, she headed off to Thailand. Rising above the ghosts of chicken of the sea past, the Jessica of 2010 had some considerable insight to share when discussing her inability to meditate with a Buddhist monk: “I couldn’t be at peace with myself, so maybe I have a little bit more work to do”. The recognition that just like true beauty comes from within, so too does inner peace.

It’s funny how sometimes we forget that celebrities are people too and that they’re entitled to inner peace, just like everyone else. Before Jessica Simpson was Jessica Simpson, she was just some junior while my class was ruling the school at JJ Pearce High School. No one would dare dream of ridiculing a co-worker for packing on a couple pounds, yet she’s shredded to the entire planet for it. Now, she’s taken her show on the road and is airing it for all of TV and Web Land to see – beauty is inside life. So, Jessica, I applaud you. You go find yourself your peace of mind, and don’t stop till you get enough.

What is the price of beauty anyways? Maybe it’s the price we pay when we do something in favor of outward appearance, instead of acting in a way that jives with our authentic selves. It may manifest as an eating disorder, shopping addiction, addiction to plastic surgery, relationship addiction, or in some other way all together, but the result is all the same. We make ourselves sick. Jessica’s friend asked the Buddhist monk if inner peace = outer beauty. The monk replied that true beauty comes from within, and explained that “if your mind is deep in meditation, your body, your skin and your health will glow”. Meditation, like yoga, means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. A simple explanation might be that it can simply mean the harnessing of control of the thoughts of the mind, in an effort to be able to simply sit and quietly be with yourself.

So being the music fan that I am, I used to ALWAYS listen to music ALL the time. Alarm clock goes off (cookies to the first person who guesses where I was working when the ringtone was “Blow Up the Outside World”), and I’d head to the bathroom (turn on CD player – now Pandora for Blackberry) to brush my teeth and shower. I’d be out the door and into the car (I think there were about three straight months where the first jam on the ride to work everyday was Pink Floyd’s “Time”) where I’d drive off to sit in a chair at whatever job I’d spend the bulk of my waking hours at. Once rear was in said chair, I’d turn on whatever version of technology I was currently using to feed my habit, and there I would sit. Until it was time to get back in the car for some more tunes, before arriving home. From home, things could go one of two ways:

1. leave home, go out, listen to more music; or
2. stay home, watch TV (not technically music for the most part).

Both ended with falling asleep with the TV on, and then completing the cycle by waking up to the outside world blowing up yet again. How does a girl get a little peace around this joint anyways? Well, you can start by spending some time each day just shutting it down. Shutting it all down. Getting quiet. Whatever that looks like for you. Enjoy the silence.

IN SUMMATION: I was asked recently to give five tips for going from tense to tranquil. In a nutshell: move, breath, learn, dream, share. In my experience, doing these things leads you on the path to the one thing that ultimately leads to tranquility – the ability to just be. Within that ability to just be resides true beauty. Beauty inside life.

John Mayerhem

I uploaded the following Blackberry shot to my Facebook page yesterday. This is the story of how I spent the rest of the day defending John Mayer (the man, not his unfortunate remarks), and what I learned from the experience.

Ok. So I went to his show Tuesday night with a friend and fellow yoga teacher (thanks – had a great time!). She’s a Franti fan. I’m a Mayer fan. It’s funny how I wouldn’t even admit that I was a fan until recently. Call it pop shame. Those who know me know that I don’t keep up with much of anything current like celebrity antics. So it was only after posting the photo on Facebook yesterday that I learned about John’s recent media foibles and ensuing barrage of judgments and criticisms.

From posting that photo on Facebook at 9:18 yesterday morning, through leaving my Thai Massage at past 9:18 last night, John Mayer came up with near everyone I spoke with. Sometimes I brought him up, sometimes my friend, colleague, near stranger or family member brought him up. He. Just. Kept. Coming. Up.

What makes me a John Mayer fan anyways. LYRICS + AUDIENCE REACH. First and foremost. I mean, sure, he can sing and plays a mean guitar and what not, but so can lots of people. What I find cool about him is his ability to take a powerful message, make it catchy and get it to a LARGE audience. Something I’ve aspired to my whole life. So. What’s his work’s overwhelming message? Peace. Happiness. Freedom. I submit to naysayers and cynics alike: John Mayer = yogi (yogi = practitioner of spiritual practice). Does being a yogi mean you’re perfect? NO! It means you’re practicing. You’re in the fight. For your life. For the benefit of all lives.

Want Proof? Some choice lyrical highlights, chronologically:

  • 1999 – “Welcome to the real world” she said to me, condescendingly. Take a seat. Take your life. Plot it out in black and white. Well I’ve never lived the dream of the prom kings and the drama queens. I’d like to think the best of me is still hiding up my sleeve. They love to tell you, stay inside the lines. That something’s better on the other side. I want to run through the halls of my high school, I want to scream at the top of my lungs. I just found out there’s no such thing as the real world, just a lie you’ve got to rise above.
  • 2003 – Yes I’m grounded, got my wings clipped. I’m surrounded by all this pavement. Guess I’ll circle, while I’m waiting, for my fuse to dry. Someday I’ll fly, someday I’ll soar. Someday I’ll be so damn much more, cause I’m bigger than my body gives me credit for. Why is it not my time? What is there more to learn? Shed this skin I’ve been tripping in, never to quite return.
  • 2003 – Cause I can’t wait to figure out what’s wrong with me, so I can say this is the way that I used to be. There’s no substitute for time.
  • 2005 – Twice as much, ain’t twice as good, and can’t sustain, like a one half could. It’s wanting more, that’s gonna send me to my knees… Just keep me where the light is.
  • 2006 – Me and all my friends, we’re all misunderstood. They say we stand for nothing and there’s no way we ever could. Now we see what’s going wrong with the world and those who lead it, we just feel like we don’t have the means to rise above and beat it. So we keep waiting, waiting on the world to change. We keep on waiting, waiting on the world to change. It’s hard to beat the system, when we’re standing at a distance, so we keep waiting, waiting on the world to change. Now if we had the power, to bring our neighbors home from war, they would have never missed a Christmas, no more ribbons on the door. When you trust your television, what you get is what you got, cause when they own the information they can bend it all they want. . . One day our generation is gonna rule the population, so we keep on waiting, waiting on the world to change.
  • 2006 – Pain throws your heart to the ground, love turns the whole thing around. No it won’t all go the way it should, but I know the heart of life is good.
  • 2009- Come out angels, come out ghosts, come out darkness, bring everyone you know. I’m not running. I’m not scared. I am waiting and well prepared. I’m in the war of my life. At the door of my life. Out of time and there’s no where to run away. I’ve got a hammer and a heart of glass. I’ve got to know right now which walls to smash. I got a pocket, got no pill. If fear hasn’t killed me yet, than nothing will. All the suffering and all the pain, never liked to label. I’m in the war of my life. At the door of my life. Out of time and there’s nowhere to run. I’m in the war of my life. At the core of my life. I’ve got no choice but to fight till it’s done. No more suffering. No more pain. Never again. … So fight on, fight on everyone, so fight on.
  • 2009 – Who says I can’t be free, of all of the things that I used to be. Re-write my history, who says I can’t be free.

YESTERDAY, I HEARD THAT JOHN MAYER IS: a bad person. an asshole. a white supremacist. a jerk. a womanizer. a joke. not a serious person. unenlightened. dishonest.

So on to his unfortunate remarks.

See Unfortunate Remarks: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/02/10/john-mayer-jessica-simpso_n_456566.html

John on John, via his song “My Stupid Mouth”: “My stupid mouth, it’s got me in trouble – I said too much again. . . Oh, another social casualty, score one more for me. How could I forget, mama said, “speak before thinking”. No filter inside my head, oh what’s a boy to do . . . One more thing, why’s it my fault? So maybe I try too hard. But it’s all because of this desire – I just wanna be liked, I just wanna be funny, looks like the joke’s on me – So call me Captain Backfire”. Oh how I relate. And feel for ya, John.

Clearly I’ve never experienced growing up in the public eye like John has. I say growing up, cause those of us who’ve hit the 30 marker can easily attest to the fact that this is what you do during your 20s (and 30s?). However, I can SORTA almost ponder what it must be like, because I’ve experienced the feeling of being watched and judged before when working for people in public office. Let me tell you. NOT so fun. John blogs. He tweets. He shares. He has a link on his website called “community”. So it isn’t hard to imagine that he considers the public his private life. What private life anyways? Does he have one?

So what did he really say anyhow? That a relationship ended because of generational differences? That he had great sex with one of pop cultures great sex symbols (Go JJ Pearce Mustangs?)? That he’s not attracted to African American women on a sexual level, but wishes he was on an intellectual and heart level?

So we find these things he said SHOCKING to read or hear. We define who he is by these statements. We say he’s a terrible human being. What have you or your loved ones said on your worst days… in your worst moments… without thinking it through? If I’m to be fair, for me to stop being a John Mayer fan because of these unfortunate things he said, I’m going to have to stop being LOTS of people’s fans. Including my own. Yup. It’s true. I’ve said nasty things before. I’ve been pissed or jaded or hurt or just in a lousy mood before and made sweeping generalizations about people or things, and made critical comments about individual people, that would have been hurtful had they leaked out to the masses. Haven’t you? Sorta makes a girl thankful for her lack of celebrity.

Compassion. It’s something Buddhists talk about A LOT. Compassion for all (starting with yourself) is said to be fundamental to enlightenment. Unconditional compassion for all may sound super hard or even stupid or detrimental at first, but the more you tune in to the “One Love” frequency emitted by all types of spiritual practitioners that I’ve ever studied, it gradually becomes easier and easier to wrap your mind around. In “The Art of Happiness”, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama speaks of this universal compassion, and how to cultivate it. He points out: “I think even Stalin was loved by his mother in childhood”.

Growing up my dad used to always say “judge not lest ye be judged”. It was so annoying. Particularly because I was constantly judging EVERYBODY and EVERYTHING (including myself). One day while strolling along the long and winding road of my life journey, I had the realization that I don’t like being judged for not being perfect. It just didn’t seem fair for people to expect perfection. Especially when I judged that they weren’t, in fact, perfect themselves. Hellooo. My name is Shana. I’m pretty frickin awesome. Sure, I make mistakes, but I’m trying hard at this whole life thing, and I’m doing the best I can. One day last year, while being accosted by a woman who saw me guzzling a zero carb Rockstar in the wee hours of a Saturday morning, I remember making a smart-ass remark that I would try harder and that maybe I’d be perfect next year. Rest assured, 2010 won’t be the year.

It’s interesting how someone who doesn’t know your life or your story can judge you based on a single group of words or actions. Truth is, life’s a process. The only lasting progress I’ve ever seen happens slow and subtly. As I pointed out to my ridiculer that morning, in a ridiculous need to atone myself, in 2005 I was a pack a day smoker who ate exclusively at Circle K and McDonalds and drank Diet Coke and Vodka instead of water. I was also an insomniac, a stress case, and lots of other things that I’ll save for a later date. 2010 finds me a well-rested, 5 year (this July) non-cigarette smoking, vegetarian (99% of the time) eating yoga teacher. This is how I know that change happens. It can feel like a very slow and excruciating process sometimes, but it happens.  Every minute, of every day.

Like John, I may have a big mouth and picked up some tattoos, bad habits and other things along the way, but hey – it’s all a part of the ride. What’s this life about anyways, if not the ride? Some days I still drink Diet Coke. That’s ok. Some days I get a hankering for cheese fries with an extra side of ranch. Still ok. Some days nothing sounds better than a big glass of red wine with a side helping of staying up too late with friends while sitting somewhere that’s too loud. That’s ok too. It’s always all good. I’m still saving perfect for next year. This year I’m giving myself permission to still be human. Perfect? No. Working on it? Yes. Can you judge me (or John)? Sure. Should you? Let your heart be your guide.

Growing up Jewish in Texas, I never spent much time or effort on Jesus or his thoughts. In studying yoga, however, I’ve begun reading up on some of his teachings. He is said to have said: “The fault that you see in other people, the judgment you put onto others is your own judgment towards yourself”. In Buddhist texts I’ve read that everything we see in life is a reflection of ourselves. In the yoga world I’ve heard it said that all that you see, you are.

Judaism offers a concept called “lashon hara”. It is a prohibition under Jewish Law of telling gossip. Makes no difference if the gossip is true or not – you ain’t supposed to talk about it either way. The Talmud (a Jewish religious text) says that gossip kills three – the teller, the listener, and the subject of the gossip. Believing this to the core, that’s why I felt compelled to spend yet more time on yesterday’s day of Mayerhem. And yes, before anyone mentions it, it is true- this entire blog entry is, in fact, lashon hara. Like I said, I’m working on it. =)

IN SUMMATION: A contestant on The Biggest Loser this week put it great (paraphrased). We’re a team. Each member is like a finger. They can wiggle and wag around separately. But at the end of the day, we all unite together to make a fist. Individual struggle. Group fight. So basically, all we can do is try our best to mind our own. What this means to me is tending to my own. I’m the only person I can ever really worry about or be accountable for in the first place. John Mayer, whether you like him or not, is on our team of life. He’s a human. He struggles. Just like us. If we want compassion, we must give compassion. If we want change, we must be change. So, I’ll resolve to continue working on keeping my thoughts and actions in line with my morals and ideals. You can join me by continuing to do the same. John can keep doing his thing. Together, through our individual efforts of self-discovery and improvement, we will change the world. Of this there is no doubt.

Peace, Happiness & Freedom,

Shana