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Helm of the Heart

We are the ones we've been waiting for

Category Archives: Animals

Daniel and I are currently house sitting in San Jose. I’m going to yoga school, he’s digging through our storage unit, gardening, and taking care of Daisy (she’s such a sweetheart). We’ve been indulging in television since we don’t usually have it, so basically we’re watching The Food Network, Animal Planet, and Antiques Roadshow. Go figure.

Miss Daisy

We were watching The Colbert Report the other night, although I think it was an old one, and there was this guy that came on and spoke about a documentary film that he made in which he posed as a guru named Kumaré.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nGIkf3vo2dw

Kumaré basically believes the same same thing that the actor/film maker believes: that every individual has the power to be his or her own guru (guru is sanskrit for teacher or master). Although there were a lot of mixed reactions to his little experiment, a lot of Kumarés followers were empowered by the message that he delivered, which is that each of us has the powers within in us to heal ourselves and become our own masters.We don’t really need to follow “gurus” or other religious leaders in order to gain the type of fulfillment that we seek.

This doesn’t mean that our teachers aren’t vital; we all have room to grow and we can all serve as teachers for one another in some manner. I think that it is important to understand that we all have the ability to lead the type of life we want.

This got me to thinking about how differently I would live my life if I had people following and emulating my every move. I guess having children is similar in some ways, although children rarely follow every action of their parent. But in a scenario where a person is responsible for truly leading and living by example… well that would probably change some of my behaviors.

So I’m challenging myself. I’m going to start with one week where I am going to try to live my life as if I needed to be a constant example for others. If what I am doing is not something I would encourage others to do, then why would I do it myself? The main areas I think will be impacted by this are my eating habits and the way that I nurture my mind and body. Who knows though? I’m sure there are plenty other aspects of my life that could be influenced with this kind of challenge. I’m not claiming that I will be living in some perfect, enlightened state for the next week, but I hope to gain some perspective on the idea that we are each our own guru. That each of us can be a positive reflection for the beings around us.

I’ll keep you updated on my guru experiment, and I encourage anyone reading to try the same- even for just a day. Let me know how it goes!

♥ /☼

Amanda

There is something innately comforting about being around family and friends that have know you for decades.

My mother’s home is definitely a safe-haven for me. It’s always clean, comfortable, and there is usually a baked good of some sort that has been freshly made. I came back to my mom’s after taking an intense, heated yoga class at Core Power, and was greeted by a tray of freshly baked brownies. Hot yoga + brownies = balance. Right? Right!

It has been a long time since I took at heated class, which I find to be both magical and exhausting. Magical because my muscles become so warm and flexible that I find poses like “Bird of Paradise” to be so much more accessible. There’s nothing quite like the post yoga “glow”, and when you take a heated power class you end up completely drenched in your own sweat. But when you leave the studio, the outside 86 degree weather feels positively frigid! And the shower after is the best thing in world.

I’m going to take my first PiYo class this evening with one of my dearest friends Rachelle, who described PiYo as “yoga on crack”. Should be fun!

♥ /☼

Amanda

I finally got to spend some quality time practicing yoga at home today. Monday and Tuesday were 12+ hour days for me, going from teaching to my newly acquired second job.

A lot of things are happening right now (feels like pandamonium), and I’ve been pretty good about not stressing out due to a lack of funds. That is, until I couldn’t buy groceries or put gas in my car. That’s when I started to get a little perturbed.

Life has a magical way of working itself out, and thankfully I managed to get the necessities and calm down. I am very blessed to have generous friends and family that are always willing to help me when I need it.

Not having an abundance of money lately hasn’t been bothering me. I say this as a person with a home and a pretty comfortable life, so I know that it might sound kind of silly. I’ve always been privileged with a family that provides for me. It’s funny that when I was a child, I thought that I was so unfortunate because I didn’t get as many clothes as my friends or get paid for my good grades. When you are surrounded by wealth, your perspective changes. I don’t think I was ever a spoiled brat (I’m sure I had my moments) and I was raised to be appreciative and generous with material items. Yet still, I was unaware of the serious lack that is experienced by the majority of people on this planet.

Recently, my perspective on money has changed drastically. It occurred to me that the reason I haven’t had an abundance of “play money” is because I need to be cherishing, valuing and developing parts of myself that require little to no money. Buying a bunch of crap or spending money frivolously is not what I am supposed to be doing with my life at this stage. I need to be outside in nature, educating myself, and spending time with the people I love.

Of course, I am still a girl who loves her aesthetics, and I need my unlimited yoga membership! As much as I try to shy away from material pursuits, I can’t help but want, want, want.

But I’m working on just being.

Furthermore, I think that our financial system/fiat money is a complete joke. Okay… a terrible, destructive and murderous joke.

“The work, to be published in PLoS One, revealed a core of 1318 companies with interlocking ownerships. Each of the 1318 had ties to two or more other companies, and on average they were connected to 20. What’s more, although they represented 20 per cent of global operating revenues, the 1318 appeared to collectively own through their shares the majority of the world’s large blue chip and manufacturing firms – the “real” economy – representing a further 60 per cent of global revenues.

When the team further untangled the web of ownership, it found much of it tracked back to a “super-entity” of 147 even more tightly knit companies – all of their ownership was held by other members of the super-entity – that controlled 40 per cent of the total wealth in the network. “In effect, less than 1 per cent of the companies were able to control 40 per cent of the entire network,” says Glattfelder. Most were financial institutions. The top 20 included Barclays Bank, JPMorgan Chase & Co, and The Goldman Sachs Group.”

Full article: http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21228354.500-revealed–the-capitalist-network-that-runs-the-world.html

I want so badly not to buy into a corrupt system that functions only to support a cabal of greedy individuals that are oppressing people and suppressing technology. We deserve technology that could improve our quality of life and decrease our dependence on fossil fuels. Alternative methods of healing that work preventively, without profiting from diseases. A media that actually reports the news.

To illustrate the absurdity of the mainstream media, I give you this clip from Conan O’Brien. It’s hilarious, until you realize the implications of what it really means.

It’s easy to feel powerless, to continue functioning in a dull haze of consumerism and fear, but by educating ourselves we regain some of our power.

Oh, and the panda picture… I don’t know, it just felt right.

♥/☼

Amanda

I love Persian cats. They always have this expression that is simultaneously pissed off and blasé. I find them oddly serene. Their expression really captures the essence of what I’ve felt lately.

Yesterday (Monday) was challenging, as is a constant theme lately. I think that being surrounded by like-minded individuals and getting to delve into what I am passionate about leaves me flying a little too high, come Monday.

Not that I dislike my job. I mean, not many people actually want to teach Special Education to middle schoolers in East San Jose. In fact, it was never really my dream, but Teach For America placed me there and I figured if they thought I could handle it, why not? I mean, I got through teaching summer school in Watts. Really, how hard could it be?

I’m now in my fourth year. I think my first year I went home and cried almost every day. But it got easier. I got stronger, smarter, and probably crazier. All of my colleagues say that you must be a little crazy to teach middle school, and I completely agree.

Anyway, my job is a bag of mixed blessings. I’ve seen kids grow 3 years in reading in one year. I’ve seen a 12 year old pregnant by her step-father. Once a student released a bottle of bees in my classroom. I’m still not sure how he managed to get them all in the bottle. That is the magic of middle school.

Most of my students hate school and they have never felt any pride in their school work. Converting even a small percentage of my students to enjoy reading and to invest in themselves is truly a victory. I know this, but I can’t help but ache when my students are expelled and begin what might be a life long journey through our penal system. They use Special Education numbers to predict prison growth for a reason.

On Monday, my fellow teachers and I wore black and picketed at the District Office, protesting the fact that our benefits have gone up 40% in the last 2 years. Along with the millions being spent on lawyer fees fighting grievances (that the district never wins), the millions spent of outside consulting agencies (supposedly to raise our test scores, but I have never found them useful or helpful in any way), and the fact the we haven’t had a contract for over a year, moved me to speak at our board meeting. I was very nervous, but I wanted to voice my concerns about the fact that they are not going to retain young teachers with these types of insults. Before I was in my classroom, my students had over 13 substitutes and spent the year coloring. If teachers are not valued and respected, they won’t want to stay in low-income areas that are challenging to begin with.

I’m tired of fighting.

I’ve noticed a change in myself with my more challenging classes the last few days. They were acting like feral children and I couldn’t even be moved to struggle with them. It actually freaked them out, my non-response. The silent writing of referrals.

Something has changed in me. It’s not that I don’t care, I’m just not accessing the reactionary responses that I am accustomed to.

Another example: things have fallen apart in my crappy apartment. I say crappy, because it is so poorly built. Like most structures now, it was built with the idea that it will be torn down in a few years. No one invests in creating something worth preserving. The cabinets have broken off their hinges, the pipes leak, the fire alarm randomly beeps and buzzes at 4am.

Thanks to Daniel (husband and interior genius), the decor is nice. It’s my home and I really try to make it my sanctuary. If only it didn’t feel like a crumbling death-trap.

Today was particularly interesting. I came home, opened my closet, and found that the hanging racks had fallen from the wall and everything in the closet was in a heap. Strangely, I didn’t feel myself become upset. I thought “well I have too much stuff anyway”, and giggled.

It has become so difficult for me to fight. Not because I don’t care. I care so deeply and profoundly. But not about the mundane material distractions. The best way I have found to channel my concerns is through devoting myself to yoga. Giving it up to the higher, surrendering my attachment.

It’s a beautiful way of being.

Dark chocolate helps, too.

♥/☼

Amanda

Navasana (boat pose)

After the amazing, exhausting weekend of yoga, coming back to the real world (aka state testing/middle school spring fever) has been a bit of an adjustment.  After all the glorious heart-opening and back bending on Sunday, I was blissed-out and ready to spread my joy with the world.

Then Monday materializes:

  • my back- oh so achy
  • students- tired of testing, hormones raging, attitudes flaring
  • my mental/emotional/physical state- 4 hours of sleep, allergies in full force, iced venti hazelnut soy latte in hand, followed by a major crash

Thankfully, I made it through the day and came home to my couch and a good book. I’ve been pretty consistent with my yoga practice, and I had every intention of keeping my disciplined routine going. That is, until I brewed some kava tea and melted into the couch. I realized how exhausted I truly was, and of course began to go through my usual mental pattern of wanting to blow something off, feeling guilty, rationalizing…. rinse & repeat.

I have always struggled to find a healthy balance. I’m a very all-or-nothing type of person in most aspects of my life. There is a side of me that is incredibly organized, disciplined, punctual and motivated. I’m a compulsive list-maker. I’m almost always early or on time.

There is also a side of me that completely abhors responsibility, rules, structure, and that is basically a wild thing.

What usually happens to me is that I will be very regimented and then I reach a breaking point and go let my wild thing take over until I exhaust myself and feel awful about shirking my responsibilities (not eating well, sleeping or giving my body and mind the nourishment that it needs). It’s like a see-saw of stoicism and epicureanism.

I’m learning to balance these two aspects of myself. I’m not completely one or the other. These two elements must find a way to peacefully coexist.

So on this Monday, I decided to have some compassion for myself. I rested, relaxed and indulged a little. I decided not to feel guilty. I did a few couch-asanas, just stretching in ways that my body craved. When I painted my toes I held navasana (above) and strengthened my abdominal muscles. I felt accomplished in that I was allowing myself to do what my body and mind craved, without letting myself spiral out of control. Little indulgences here and there.

♥/☼

Amanda

Meet my little Chihuahua/German Shepherd mix, Rumo. He’s had a crazy life…found wandering the streets of Tijuana, locked up in a kennel, etc. When we got him, he was a frightened little guy that didn’t know how to use stairs and he licked constantly to soothe himself.

In the past year and a half, he has become more of a proud little wolf. My husband is amazing with animals and he has helped break Rumo of his dysfunctional habits. One thing about Rumo that will never change is that he is opportunistic. I just know that he had to scavenge to get by for a long time and he is quite a survivor. The only thing Rumo loves more than food is attention. He’ll take a belly rub over treats any day.

So recently, he’s been doing the strangest thing. As a little dog, he gets stepped on and knocked over occasionally. Whenever this happens, I feel awful and I pick him up and fawn over him, smothering him in love. Now he has started putting himself in places where he’ll be trampled ON PURPOSE!

I had wondered about this for a while, as I noticed him constantly under my feet. But it was really cemented last night when Daniel was out in the livingroom with him. Daniel told me that he pet Rumo and then began using the computer. Rumo then snuck around right under his feet… and was promptly stepped on. So Daniel took him into our bedroom where Rumo’s bed is on the floor, and went back out to use the computer.

It gets better/worse. Our little masochist put his legs in front of the door so that when Daniel came back in, he cried and wailed like a baby!!

I have begun to relate this story to what is happening with some of my students now. I had a pretty stern talk with them yesterday about the fact that they are so disrespectful to not only me, but to each other. I told them that they if they acted with maturity that they would have more privileges. I asked them “How would you treat me if I talked to you the way you talk to me?” One little smart ass replied “with kindness”! I can assure you that this is not true, as he regularly calls other students “dumpster babies” and “dirty twats”. But that’s a whole other story.

Anyway, I felt my response come out of my so naturally. “By being strict and continually making you learn and grow, I am doing you a kindness. If I just gave up and let you behave the way that you do, you might think that I am being ‘cool’, but in fact I wouldn’t be doing anything for you at all!  You should be happy that I care enough to give you tough love.”

And for once, a hush fell over the room.

Just like with my little Rumo, sometimes you have to think about what is actually a “kindness”. I can’t fawn over Rumo the way that I have when he is hurt because he could be seriously injured someday if he keeps up his antics. And I can’t allow these preteens to run with what they’ve been taught (or more likely, what they haven’t been taught). Kindness isn’t always the fuzzy sweetness of this raccoon:

Sorry I just love that picture… had to put it in 😛

Sometimes it is difficult to give and it is often unappreciated. This is where detaching from the outcome comes in. It is hard to do, but it is essential. You have to act in alignment with yourself and allow the situation to unfold as it may. Usually, the less you try to control, the more things will go your way.
♥/☼
Amanda

I’m definitely channeling the sloth spirit today.

After a full day of work, I’m back to school for Family Night from 6-7pm. Usually I’d be going to a yoga class, but Family Night runs smack in the middle of my evening classes.

So I’ve sneaked in some chair/desk yoga and a few sun salutations randomly throughout my day. I even held pigeon pose for a few minutes and channeled today’s frustrating moments into a nice hip opening exercise.

“Mrs. Christiansen, what’s the difference between PCP and meth?”

“Why can’t I eat hot cheetos in class? I’m hungry.” (See red grease stains all over my books)

And of course there’s always my lovely potty-mouthed student calling others “dirty twats” and telling them that he “hopes they get run over by a bus”.

Never a dull moment.

I’m choosing to take this all with the bliss and detachment of a sloth.

Namaste!

     ♥ / ☼

Amanda