Monday, November 14, 2011

so many things

Bikram Yoga Teacher Training

I realize it would have been better of me to keep up with my blogging over this incredible experience... unfortunately that has not been the case so I will attempt to express some more of the journey right here now...

There are so many things.

So many things that I want to share.  So many beautiful moments I've gotten to feel.  So many little "clicks" in my mind & thought process where I've had a mental "Ooooooh, now I get it" or "Aaahaaa! So thats why I had to go through that previous experience" and "Wow. Everything thats come before in my life has led me straight to this moment, this THING."

Its a crazy, wonderful, eye-opening ride - this training - when you release your need for control, embrace the struggle a little bit and just observe the way your mind sees the world.  The perspective I've gained on mySelf and my whole LIFE up to now, through this training, is almost mind-blowing.  Going through so much intensity at such an accelerated rate is a recipe for some big steps toward Self Realization - IF you're willing to make the effort and start looking at things differently - taking a step back from the sensation of the moment (whether it be pain, sadness, excitement, exhaustion, frustration, anxiety) and seeing more of the "grand scheme" of things and whether or not it might better serve you to shift your thoughts and focus...

I've found, for me personally, and I'm pretty sure, actually, that its rings true for everyone here and is the whole point of the training, that this whole process - the intense physical challenge, the long hours and late nights, the little control or knowing what's coming next, the waiting, the push to learn very quickly and lack of time to do so, the mix of 400 personalities, the hotel lifestyle in general and more - THIS WHOLE PROCESS is not just for the purpose of getting a Bikram Yoga teaching certificate, its really about learning to LET GO.  Releasing our expectations of how we thought it might go, what we think might be next, how we prefer things to be done, how much sleep we think we need, how much time to study we wish we had, how we think things should be easier -- letting that ALL GO and simply BEING PRESENT in the exact moment we're in.  Releasing the worry over what we have next and just really focusing on the now and how we're choosing to feel and experience it - not how we think or assume we should be feeling (i.e. I didn't get enough sleep so I'm gonna be so tired all day) - but instead getting in touch with the way deep down inside of us, that power, harnessing it and realizing that we've been underestimating ourSelves so much for so long - and look how strong we actually ARE. Look how much we CAN actually do. And look how happy we can be doing it if we make that conscious choice, at the moment, enjoying it - enjoying BEING. 

This has been an amazing thing for me to observe mySelf going through.  Every morning I have to check in with mySelf and then lovingly thank my body & mind for being so good to me, for showing so much strength - IMPRESSING me with how much I can withstand.  And this is a conscious choice I make - to really focus on the gratitude towards mySelf and body, staying in touch with how I really feel and not going into an automatic reaction of stress just because this process has so many stressful elements.  After all, Bikram tells us he's making us bullet proof - stress proof - sweat proof - money proof - sex proof - age proof... and if you're making the conscious choice to remain calm, he's exactly right... it works. 

The Gratitude

The most powerful and moving sensation I've had throughout the entire training is this amazing ever-present feeling of deep gratitude.  Not just for the experience of the training itself - although I couldn't be more thankful to be here.  But mainly its been this incredible mind/body/soul acknowledgment of how lucky I am to have been surrounded by such goodness my entire life.  Specifically to have been raised by my two truly loving and growth-encouraging parents.  

Mother & Father

On many occasions over the past eight weeks I have called home and burst into tears thanking my Mom and Dad for being the parents they have been - for setting me on the right path in life - providing me with the foundation of faith and love to build upon - being examples of loving, giving, kind individuals towards all - for always encouraging me to ask questions - continually reminding me to stay true to who I am and what I know in my heart in right - teaching me the importance of open-mindedness - for providing support in whatever way I need it - helping me to see that just because the majority says its so, doesn't mean it actually is - being examples of humility and hard-work, love and trust in a relationship - building and encouraging my independence and individuality... I could go on forever, I really could.  Being here, among 400 other trainees from all walks of life, different ages, different parental guidance - watching everyone go through this and deal with it in very different ways (many not so positive) has brought me to my knees in gratitude realizing how far along my parents set me with a good attitude and positive outlook on my life - NO MATTER THE CIRCUMSTANCES (<--and thats the most important part).  I have been in a constant state of buzzing appreciation for how I was raised because I see how much others struggle in difficult, challenging situations... and I KNOW much of my positive, accepting way of looking at things, thinking about things, dealing with things, knowing and trusting that everything is happening in Divine synchronistic flow and that the Universe will always provide what I need - the essence of 'letting go' and my grasp of it - I owe to my incredible Mom and Dad and the love they put into making me a human being and then allowing me to fly.  Thank you, Mom and Dad.  I couldn't ask for better parents.  You make me want to share this light with everyone in my life.

Partner Love

The gratitude also beats hard in my heart for my loving husband.  What a man I've found to not only financially support this life-changing endeavor but to lovingly push me out of my comfort zone away from him and the pups for nine weeks, encourage me to pursue a dream, remind me - every time things got hard or I got homesick - of my love and passion for sharing this yoga and how many people I am going to heal with it... supporting me the whole way even as my being away made his life less exciting, a little harder and at times, painfully lonely.  He didn't complain or make it harder on me.  He'd provided me with the encouragement and support I needed to make it through - with a smile on my face.  

I've had some intense moments of tear-jerking gratitude for the person he is too - how lucky I am to have found a man with talent, humility, generosity, dedication, loyalty, humor, deep love for his family... I got a little choked up at dinner a few nights ago here in LA as an old baseball friend of ours met up with me and was describing to his girlfriend how he first met Matt and I when Matt was originally drafted into the Phillies organization.  He said he knew he had found a true friend and a good man because even though Matt was the high draft pick that year and a big prospect in the organization - "You would have never known it," he described, "...he was the most humble, giving, down-to-earth guy with no ego whatsoever. The kind of guy who offered to buy your dinner because he knew he had a little more money in the bank and was happy to share it."  --it made my heart melt.  And I was reminded of why I love him so much and why our marriage is so strong - getting better and better even after 11 years of being together.  Matt is not only an incredible husband, he is a truly good person with a heart of gold.  As my homecoming gets closer, he tells me how excited he is for me to see his practice and how much he has improved in the postures and with his focus.  He wants me to be impressed... and I cherish that about him, it is so genuinely sweet and it shows me how much he cares about what I'm doing with my life.  It also makes it evident his commitment and desire to keep bettering himself and evolving.  I am so grateful.

Mastering the Baseball Life Pays Off in the Yoga too...

So many things.  So many things I am grateful for.  

Being here, amongst all the different people and the ever-changing, unpredictable schedule has made me so so appreciative of the baseball lifestyle I've had to become accustomed to over the past 7 or 8 years.  And I mean this in the manner that I am completely at peace with unpredictability and constant change because this is everything the baseball life entails.  Meeting and interacting with new people constantly, never really knowing what could happen next, having to really go with the flow if you want a life of happiness and tranquility - these are all elements I have had to deal with and learn through the baseball life.  And I AM SO THANKFUL for that because it has made those elements of this training immensely easier - something I didn't have to struggle to adjust to.  I know this because I've seen so many trainees struggle with it - fight it.  And I silently kiss the sky and offer thanks for the crazy, chaotic baseball life which has taught me so much about letting go of resistance to change and just flowing with it. 

Discipline & Confidence

Two of my strong qualities that have served me very well throughout this training have been my discipline and confidence.  

Coming into the training with an already very disciplined meditative practice  has made getting through doubles every day so much easier.  I can always bring mySelf back to the moment, what I'm doing right then and only focus on that without anticipating - this has allowed me to have many, many deep, strong practices even when I'm not feeling like doing it that day.  Its all mental.  I've kept two primary mantras throughout most of the 90 minute practices.  The first one is 'I can. I am.' -- meaning I can do this (whatever 'this' is right then - locking the knee, holding the stillness, withstanding the heat) and then I AM - reaffirming to mySelf that, "look - I am doing it because I can."  I will repeat it over and over and over throughout the class, hundreds of times.  It works.  The other mantra I've used quite a bit especially when I'm feeling a little weak or emotional (the emotions sometimes just pop up out of nowhere during training) is 'I love you. I will never leave you.' -- and this is kind of my connecting mantra with the Universe, the Divine - that ever-present energy pulsing through all of us, connecting all of us, with us all the time.  I remind mySelf, through this mantra, that there is never a time when love is not with me, in me, all around me - it never leaves me.  So its okay to feel whatever I'm feeling at that moment and release it if I need.  Its okay to take it easy sometimes, let the ego fall away and just back off if I need to - these are things I really struggle with and this mantra, just the words, I don't know, it makes me feel very close to the Divine and when I focus on it hard enough, I can let a lot of my self-criticism and ego-based thoughts go.  I can relax without feeling like I've lost anything. 

Confidence has been a HUGE factor in the training.  Especially in posture clinics when we're memorizing and reciting pages and pages of the Bikram dialogue verbatim.  My parental thankfulness pops up again here - because my parents have instilled in me this inner confidence that I can do anything I want to do and never, EVER to let doubt about that creep in - because it does not serve us in any positive manner.  This has allowed me to learn the dialogue very quickly and correctly and then present it with confidence - knowing and trusting that I am and will be an amazing yoga teacher.  And I don't say that with any cockiness or arrogance whatsoever - I say it with the confidence that I know I am doing what I was made to do and because I'm doing it with true love for not only the yoga but my future students whom I want to experience that connecting and healing power that this yoga provides.  When I would get up to deliver a posture, I would always try to take a few deep breaths before and not focus on my own insecurities of just learning the dialogue or what would happen if I messed up, I would really try to remind mySelf of how much I love the students and want them to feel that love through my teaching.  I would hear my mom in the back of my mind reminding me that "when we do things from a place of love, they always come out right."  This was a very powerful and moving process for me and gave me the confidence I needed to make posture clinics a very positive experience (when many trainees absolutely hated and dreaded them).  Watching so many of my classmates get up there and immediately self-doubt and second guess themselves made me tearfully grateful that that was just never part of my experience growing up - because its definitely something that we learn and make a habit of throughout our lives (in everything we do).  The strong foundation of inner love and confidence my parents helped me to build is something I'm seeing is so special and unfortunately not something all possess or can learn overnight. 

I suppose what I'm trying to get across in my long-winded post is that this amazing training experience has shown me so much about how I am so much of the culmination of everything thats happened before in my life, everyone I've surrounded mySelf with, all the thoughts and experiences I've had up to this point in my life.  For a lot of people, that can be a really scary thing to realize and acknowledge,  and believe me, there are plenty of trainees here that are not ready to see it or ready to acknowledge it.  It can be a very eye-opening realization where one recognizes that some really big and sometimes difficult shifts need to take place in order to begin walking in the right direction.  A conscious effort is required to do this, a conscious and HONEST evaluation of Self and the thoughts we choose daily, moment-to-moment even.  We are creating our own reality - what story are we telling ourSelves over and over and how is it shaping our life?  A realization that we are always looking at the world through colored lenses - whichever color our experiences and thoughts have turned them - whichever color we are CHOOSING.  And it takes time and hard work to learn to take off those lenses and begin to see things differently from a place of love and with an open heart.  For me, like I've expressed, I feel so fortunate that I've had people and experiences all throughout my life pointing me in the right direction, keeping on the path of right, walking beside me and reminding me that things are not always the way I see them and to be aware of that.  And gratitude towards mySelf for being committed to use all my experiences - good times, hard times - as a tool for learning something about mySelf and making that conscious effort to only see through loving eyes.  What is my attitude saying about me?  What story am I telling mySelf?  What reality am I creating right now?  Is is serving me? Can I shift it to better serve me?  Its some deep and heavy stuff. 

Like I said - my heart beats so hard with gratitude.  That sensation has been so strong the past eight weeks and it is a BEAUTIFUL, POWERFUL feeling - a high almost.  And I really do see, through his lectures, classes and teachings that these are the contemplations Bikram is trying to get us to think about.  The hard, deep stuff that can't really be realized on the surface level.  We have to be broken down and opened up to start to see it, to feel it.  Thats why he has us doing two classes a day, stripping down the layers, getting into the thick of things within our bodies and within our minds - revealing and releasing some toxic energies, memories, experiences that our bodies may have been holding onto for years and years.  Staring ourSelves in the face for 3 plus hours a day just DEALING with who we are and how we handle the pressure, the practice.  Finally giving up our constant underestimating and then falling in love with our higher Selves as we watch things begin to change, our whole world begins to change - being able to start again.  Although some may call him crazy and too tough on us, I think he's pretty brilliant.  Sometimes it takes an honest ass-kicking and confrontation with our weaknesses in order to give them up.

Just Like in the Hot Room 

I find that the training is really simply an expansion of the actual Bikram Yoga practice.  In the hot room, full of distractions and difficulties, we are asked to come back to our breath and stillness - to find the calm within the storm.  To stop wiping our sweat, stop grabbing for water every other minute, stop getting up and leaving the room, stop letting our eyes wander, stop letting our thoughts wander, stop focusing on the heat-- to JUST BE STILL and focus on ourSelves.  This stillness is where the magic happens, its where we start to see how strong we are, how focused we can stay and how nothing can steal our peace.  Take those same principles and apply them to the training - can you stay calm under pressure? Can you stay focused on the task at hand? Can you zone out all the distractions? Can you cut the drama of how you're feeling in the moment and take a step back and realize that you actually CAN do this (if you THINK you can)? Can you appreciate what you're doing in that very moment? Can you make your whole experience a series of loving actions? Can you show yourself that, "yes, I can. And I am."? Can you come back to your breath, that which inherently keeps you in the moment? And can you find the JOY in doing it? Can you enJOY it? Let go of the struggle and just trust the process.  This IS what Bikram Yoga Teacher Training is.  ---and really, its what LIFE is.  

Our Yoga practice in the hot room, and by practice I mean the entire practice, start to finish - not just pretty postures - but stillness within them, stillness in between, no distractions, always focused on Self in the mirror, listening word by word, never anticipating or going into auto-pilot mode just because we know what's coming next, eliminating the drama of our emotions and just observing them but not becoming attached, the meditation of it, the love for it... our practice says so much about the kind of person we are and the story we tell ourSelves - it says so much about our entire life and how we are choosing to experience the world.  If we can practice discipline, confidence and true love for what we're doing in the hot room, if we CHOOSE to practice it - our whole world will reflect that and all good things will flow effortlessly into our lives. 

It all starts in the hot room...

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Bikram Yoga Teacher Training

The Beginning of the Journey (Weeks 1 & 2)

Here I AM - Bikram Yoga Teacher Training, fall session 2011.  This has been the plan for about a year and a half - I've been thinking on it since spring 2010.  And since then its been a bubble of excitement for the training, the process, the experience... until about a month before.  Thats when the doubt, the nerves, the fear started to creep in.  I was getting very anxious about leaving Matt and the pups for 9 weeks - what would I do without the ones I spend every day with?  Was I really ready for something so emotionally jarring, physically challenging, spiritually moving?  I spent the week before leaving in tears anytime I thought about leaving... it was tough and not something I expected to struggle with when I initially committed to the training.

BUT, here I AM.  The departure was hard, so hard.  I sobbed saying goodbye to the pups, saying goodbye to Matt and spent the entire plane ride and first night in LA teary-eyed, filled with sadness and anxiety. But again, here I AM. 

I'm now done with my second week of the training and WOW! - it is NO JOKE!  Not that I expected it to be a piece of cake but its been a big adjustment, no doubt.  The schedule is grueling.  We begin at 8 am with our first 90 minute practice in the hot room (105 degrees with 40% humidity - which undoubtedly ends up being quite a bit hotter with 400 people in the room) followed by a small break after the class before our first lecture usually beginning between 11:30-12.  Then onto our 5 pm class in the hot room, usually taught by Bikram himself.  We break for dinner after that then back to the lecture room until late night - 12 am, sometimes as late as 2 am or LATER (or would that be earlier since its already next day?).  We get most of Saturday off and all of Sunday.  This time is used to do laundry, grocery shop for the week and study.

The doubles (practicing twice daily) haven't been too bad each day.  I've felt pretty physically prepared.  Its the late nights and less sleep that have been an adjustment for me - learning to go on 6 or 7 hours (sometimes only 4) of sleep each night when all my life I've been a consistent 8-hours-of-sleep kinda gal.  But I AM adjusting and truly trying to do it with as little complaining as possible as complaining drains the energy and strength from the body and I need all of energy and strength.  It is what it is.  And I WILL get through it.  I have faith in my body to hold onto the strength and let go of the weakness.  The yoga gives me energy, so doing 2 classes each day, I don't need quite as much sleep. 

I am SO grateful that I have been practicing the Paleo eating lifestyle for the past 6 months.  It has made SUCH a big difference in my practice, energy and RECOVERY.  As we pushed through our first week of doubles, many trainees found themselves sore, dehydrated, cramping, sick feeling, losing appetite... and I am dead serious - I felt (physically) GREAT.  I didn't get any soreness, I felt full of energy all day and was (and still am) sleeping so soundly.  Paleo keeps me so balanced - protein, good fats, fresh fruit and vegetables (the good carbs) and little to no sugar.  Nothing processed, no dairy, no starchy foods.  It is AH-mazing how well the system really works.  I haven't had to take any special supplements, as the staff often recommends extra sources of electrolytes, potassium, sodium... I am getting all of my nutrients from REAL, fresh food.  And my body is thanking me - it feels so good, so clean.  Thank you Robb Wolf (author of 'The Paleo Solution')!

The biggest adjustment has probably been living out of standard hotel room with a roommate - sharing a small space with someone I don't know all that well.  It is a major change from my comfortable life, living with my husband whom I've known all of my adult life and am very accustomed to, not to mention in love with.  My roommate and I have about a 25-year age difference and come from different life experiences (as anyone).  We are also at very different places in our yoga journey; where I have been practicing very consistently for the past 2 1/2 years at many different studios, she is just getting to her 6th month of practice spent at one studio only.  So, the teacher training experience is quite different for us both especially in our approach to getting through it.  This is definitely challenging but in a good, character-building sort of way.  It is really developing my patience.  It is helping me to focus on staying focused on the positive, always setting a good example, watching that my thoughts, actions and words are loving and giving as much as I can... it is a lovely lesson in acceptance and letting go of what I cannot control. 

Overall, the experience thus far has been wonderful.  And by that I do mean - wonder-filled - lots of changes, questions that don't necessarily have answers, different and new feelings and sensations, old things and habits that the Universe is nudging me to let go of, moments of complete humbling and growth.  I've been connecting with so many wonderful new friends on the same journey, learning a little something new and different from each of them, sharing strength and love.  This human connection is an important part of this process and very powerful when you can branch out and connect.  I find myself gravitating towards just the right people that I need in my life at that moment, its a fantastic phenomenon. 

I really tried to come into the training with as little expectation and judgement as possible - this has really helped me to be able to keep things in perspective; whatever the situation, IT IS WHAT IT IS - not necessarily bad or good - there for growth. 

I've also tried hard to keep my patience with the process and hold back any complaining about the long hours, late nights, the intenseness of the heat, the practice, the lectures... my eyes are being opened to how powerful just experiencing the situation is instead of judging and complaining about how difficult or challenging it might seem.  By quieting myself in this way, I'm finding a whole new side of love and acceptance within me - oh, and incredible inner strength and willpower.  It really lessens the difficulty of the training and allows me to stay focused on evolving as a yoga teacher AND as a human being.  In many ways it is much like being in the hot room for my yoga practice - I watch my mind, my thoughts and don't let them wander or chatter, staying in a meditative state where nothing can break my focus or steal my peace and hence I have a much better, deeper, more fulfilling practice.  I keep thinking to myself, "this experience is making me appreciate my normal life EVEN MORE and see it for how truly comfortable and good it is, I won't ever complain again when I get home!" 

The humbling - the beautiful thing about this training is that its very humbling.  With 400 other trainees, from ALL different situations and walks of life, 40 different countries, men, women, young, old, gay, straight... there is simply no room for ego.  Well, not if you are really interested in evolving and growing in your yoga.  You leave that shit at the door.
Practicing in the hot room with 400 other people is HOT, the hottest I've ever felt in my life at times.  But its so powerful and humbling - being brought to my knees at times, sobbing after class from nothing more than just emotion - "energy moving through the body" (via Rajashree Chourhury, Bikram's lovely wife), face beet red, liters and LITERS of sweat pouring out of the body, wanting so badly to get up and walk out but staying and just being there, even if I have to sit out for a posture... so humbling. 

And always, the way to make it through is to come back to the BREATH, prana - the life force - the stillness.  Not worrying about what's happened, what I've done, what I couldn't do, what is coming - none of it matters.  All that matters is the exact moment, the NOW.  My presence in that, letting go of everything else, letting every past moment die - realizing that the holding on does not serve me.  For me, coming to know these moments is how I can connect with the Divine.  It is where God is in me, where I feel that love and power the strongest.  What a challenging process but feeling it for even just a moment is worth all the struggle. 

Two weeks down, seven to go.  And I am filled with a lightness, a happiness.  I am really coming to know and SEE my higher Self.  Each day I am being challenged, broken down and slowly built back up - revealing my inner strength, the stuff waaaay deep down that we mostly underestimate all of our life.  I am learning to simplify my thoughts, one thing, one MOMENT at a time, no attachments to feelings or outcomes, no expectations or judgements.  I am getting small glimpses of my ability to have NO desires expect to BREATHE and FEEL - that is all.  And that is enough. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

10 things I'm Loving About Him Right Now (Part 2)

I needed to get myself back to writing on the blog again. And with everything negative happening with us right now in regards to our current rental home in Cincinnati, I thought it best to focus completely on something positive- this is my positive always in life, no matter what. I did a post like this about a year ago, hence the 'Part 2.'

10 Things I'm Loving About Mo Right Now

10) His groundedness. Almost every day I am reminded why I married such a good man. Of the thousands of other athletes out there, I have found one who's feet have remained on the ground through the ups and downs of his career.  Never does he feel too good to choose the cheaper brand at the grocery, to carry his own bag up to the hotel room, to wash his own car, to sit in coach on a plane ride... he respects where he has come from, how far he's come, and the idea that just because you're making more money, doesn't mean you have to spend carelessly and/or frivolously. This, I adore him for.

9) His mind. Matt didn't always put full effort into his schoolwork back in the days of high school and college. Chalk it up to being distracted by his dream of playing pro-ball, whatever the case I never quite thought of him as the "smart one" in the bunch. But as he gets older and continues to mature, I see clearer and clearer that he has such a greater mind than I, or HE even, gave him credit for. He's clever, he's a great problem solver, he's a critical thinker... he makes sense of things that often times I have trouble making sense of. I am proud of him for this. I think he recognizes his full potential not only as an athlete now, but as an intelligent human being.

8) His calm. Always. So. Calm. And I'M the one doing all the yoga. But somehow, he carries this strong calm with him wherever he goes. I admire it. I envy it. I can't comprehend how he can shut the mind-chatter off so effortlessly and quickly- but he does. In any situation that arises, and we've been tested plenty this past couple months, he remains calm and collected. And the beautiful thing about it is that it radiates into me (former type-A personality still working to relax)-- the incredible feeling of lightness, contentedness, ease. I am grateful for this. 

7) His loyalty. To his friends, to his teammates, to his team, to me. There have been times when I was ready to give up on someone/something, throw in the towel, call 'em an ass-hole and end of friendship/relationship. And I would look at Matt, who usually was taking the brunt of the mistreatment, and there he would be, telling me to have faith in the person/group, reminding me that they'd figure it out on their own time, things would be right in the end, but not to give up on people. This quality is unmatchable. It is Divine. And from him I learn so much.

6) His eagerness and willingness to evolve. In the span of a year, my husband has grown SO MUCH. As a person, as a player, as a son, a brother, a husband... He has opened his mind and heart up to so many different experiences, reaching out, ready to learn something new about himSELF. Particularly with the start of his consistent practice of Bikram Yoga have I seen a whole new beautiful side to Mo. He's outgrown old habits that were not serving him, he's gotten rid of any close-mindedness and judgments from the past, he's learned to let go of anger and any attachments to the outcome of situations. He's accepting- of others and of himself.  He knows he's not perfect but he also knows that every day, we work to be better. To learn more, to love more, to give more, to serve more, to participate in the moment. Its been incredible to watch his evolution- I tell him this all the time. 

5) His appreciation for the people in his life. In a life of constant movement and much uncertainty, where the only people you can get close to much of the time are the guys you see in the clubhouse every single day, Matt has acquired this strong appreciation for the people in his life outside of the field. As much as he loves his teammates, baseball friendships are many times circumstantial, you definitely get lucky if you can make and keep a truly strong friendship with another player with all the moving and different living situations that goes on. Spending the off-season in a place where we had no friends necessarily tied to baseball, forced us to build other friendships; friendships based on commonalities and true connection. Friends made before they ever knew Matt played ball, friendships started on a level of interest in Matt as a PERSON, not a ball player. I see how important this has become to Matt in having them in his life. I see how much he adores just kicking it like a normal guy, listening to records with them, going to shows, having meals, bull-shitting about music-- no concern for his occupation. I know how grateful he is to have people in his life like this and I know how much they mean to him. I love this. 

4) His ability to let go. We've been living baseball long enough now to know that most of the moves that happen, the situations that arise are mostly out of our control. The only thing he can do as a player is go out there every day and do the best he can at his job.  It may not be his ideal job or role but he is accepting and content with it, appreciating the opportunity to get established and absolutely knowing and trusting that everything will work out just right. All he has to do is love what he's doing now, do his very best, and let the rest go. 

3) His complete support in my own endeavors.  This year, I expressed a strong interest and calling to get certified as a Bikram Yoga Instructor. I have been itching to get back to working since I stopped in 2009 but recognized how important it was for me to be here with Matt 100% the past couple of years. We are at a place now where we both feel comfortable with me working again. Bikram Yoga Teacher Training is a pretty big deal because the training is 9 weeks long, in Los Angeles, only offered twice a year and quite expensive. I had mentioned it to Matt a while back and before spring training started, he sat me down and told me not to worry, that he would, no matter what, send me to teacher training in the fall. He expressed how much it meant to him because he knew how happy I would be doing something I loved, even if it meant not spending as much time together when I begin to work and giving up a good bit of our off-season together this year for the training. He is my biggest supporter, always encouraging me, telling people about my plans and how proud he is of me. This means more to me than I could ever express to him. 

2) His drive. Matt has always been pretty motivated. But the past 6 months I have seen a change in his drive to be the absolute best he can be at all times, to really fulfill his potential. I see it in the way he treats his body- what he eats, what he doesn't, what he does in the gym, how hard he pushes, how disciplined he is with his throwing routine- never allowing himself to miss a day (specifically in the off-season), how much he goes out and how much he rests. Its like a maturity light switch has been turned on and now nothing gets in his way of making himself better-- as a pitcher AND a person. He takes good care of himself at all times now. He is conscious of what goes into his body and his mind, aware of the impact of each choice he makes. He talks a lot about taking care of us (Lucy, Gus, and I- heehee)- his family, and how important that is to him. Its endearing. 

1) His desire to be more connected to me. We've always had a good relationship. We've been blessed in terms of not having to go through anything too traumatic or dramatic in our 10+ years together. But in the past year, I've noticed him doing things a little differently, trying things a little more frequently, opening himself up to a lot of the things I hold close to my heart, things that are of great importance to me. His desire for spiritual growth and learning have been growing. He's reading books I've read, practicing things I do, talking about different ideas/ideals I've always had, disciplining himself with routine and a whole-living approach. It not only makes me so proud, it touches me that he would make efforts to shift himself to align with me so that we can both not only remain happy with one another, but so that we can both GROW together. Not to say that he's lost his sense of individuality, because he definitely has not, but the things that he knows matter to me and matter as a couple, he has picked up. He told me the other day that he's been drinking a few cups of green tea at the field every day-- when I asked him why, he said, "Because you do. And I want to be like you." It brought tears to my eyes. I gave him a big hug and silently thanked the Divine for blessing me with this man. 

Friday, February 4, 2011

The comfort in calling this HOME.

Matt and I - we've always been able to be pretty content no matter where we're at.  We'll find our little niches throughout the different cities we travel to, explore the areas that have the most to offer in terms of our interests, meet people with commonalities (other than baseball)... this has never been a problem for us.  We enjoy it. We embrace it. There really is no other way if you want to be happy living the baseball lifestyle of constant flux.  

But there's always a certain city, no matter how much back and forth and traveling all over you do, that feels like "coming home."  Its usually a city where you've spent a good deal of time - not just being there, but exploring, growing, making friends that inhabit the city full time - stepping outside your comfort zone of the monotonous "to-and-from the field" and really getting to know the city... falling in love with it. 

Louisville. The city that I, that we, have fallen in love with.  A city with so much personality - excellent food, spectacular live music, friendly people, quaint little shops, local farmer's markets galore, plenty of parks and paths and outdoor loveliness - its hard to believe that anyone, after taking the time to get to know it, could not love Louisville.  

Triple A.  I think its safe to say that its a rarity to be playing minor league ball, in most cases, in a city as cool, with as many things to do, as Louisville.  I can say, with total conviction, that we have been absolutely blessed to spend as much time here the past four years.  And I know that Matt would agree with that 100%.  

Back in 2007, when Matt was traded from the Phillies organization to the Reds organization, we were elated that we'd be playing with an organization in our home state of Ohio (we both grew up in Huron, OH - northern part of the state).  At the time, I was in my fourth and final year at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio and had been spending a good deal of time and money flying once or twice a month to see Matt in Reading, PA (Double A, Phillies).  We'd been doing long distance (excluding the off-season) for almost seven years then - so this new close proximity was SUCH a blessing! 

Traded towards the end of the season, Matt spent a few short weeks in Chattanooga, TN (then, Double A, Reds) and was then sent to Louisville to finish out the remainder of the season.  This was FANTASTIC, we both agreed - only a short 3-hour drive from Columbus - I could drive up every weekend if I wanted!  And so our love affair with Louisville began. 

Matt spent a full season in Louisville in 2008 then proceeded to be back and forth from there to Cincinnati during the 2009 and 2010 seasons.  During this time, we lived in a few different spots in Louisville and our knowledge, familiarity, and utter LOVE for the city grew and grew.  

Before tying the knot in 2009, we debated about where we would live that off-season after the wedding... Louisville, Cincinnati, Austin, TX (a warmer climate with many of our friends)...  I had just stopped working in Columbus that summer so we didn't have anything tying us down to one particular city.  Ultimately, we ended up moving out to Austin for that off-season just to check it out and see if it was a right fit.  We loved it, had a great time - but the distance from family and the fact that, if we were to make this our off-season home, it would require more packing and moving and money, really made us re-think what we wanted to do for the next off-season. 

I fought it for a while.  I loved living in Austin.  Austin was perfect, because to me, it was a larger, warmer version of Louisville - young, vibrant, good food, good music, outdoor activities.  But I could tell that something about all the back and forth, up and go, traveling cross-country even in the off-season, bothered my husband.  Because Louisville is where he had spent most of his time the former four years, it felt like home to him, he would say with a look in his eyes of yearning for something stable.  It was the city that gave him that comfortable, at-ease feeling in a baseball world of living out of hotels and suitcases and airplanes and bus rides.  And after many heated debates about it, mainly because I hate the cold and wanted to escape the mid-west during the winter months, I finally realized that Matt's comfortability and happiness in staying put would be the best thing for him, for us, this next off-season.  

So, towards the end of this past season, while Matt finished out the year with the big league team, I scoured Louisville for an affordable and comfy place that we could call home.  And just as I'm always preaching that the Universe will take care of those who trust it, the perfect little place just fell into our laps.  Three doors down from our absolute favorite restaurant in Louisville, a fenced in backyard for our two dogs, just enough space to be comfortable, and extremely affordable - there it was: our new home.  

This has been, hands down, the best decision we could have made.  We already loved the city, there was no debate over that and the winter actually was not that bad - I taught myself to appreciate the beauty of the snow, the crispness of the air, the warmth of our cozy little place after coming in from the outside.  We were forced to (and happily welcomed this) make friends outside of the baseball world - finding common ground and things to talk about other than baseball.  It was completely refreshing and the least stressful off-season we've ever had.  And Matt was happy.  He was so so happy.  He was happy to stay put, to be in a place that he knew well, that had the little comforts that many baseball players miss out on most of the year.  It was a beautiful thing and it made me happy too. 

Needless to say, we'll be staying in Louisville for many years to come, I imagine.  We have even decided to keep our place during the season, no matter where Matt is playing, so that 1) we can leave all of our stuff there while we travel and 2) we don't lose (in our minds) the perfect place for us right now. 

As we began to prepare for this coming season and our truck to Arizona for spring training, the sadness of leaving our perfect little home and all our incredible new friends started to set in.  I would get teary-eyed thinking about not being able to walk over to North End Cafe for breakfast on a random Tuesday morning, not being able to continue to build these new friendships, face-to-face, that we had treasured the past few months, not being able to see familiar faces in the day-to-day activities like going to the grocery or practicing in our Louisville yoga studio... the things many people who live a more normal lifestyle without all the travel probably take for granted on a day-to-day basis.  

But this is our life.  It is what it is and as much as I could complain about it, it makes coming HOME that much sweeter. 

Photo in the Louisville Courier Journal for a 2009 story on Life in the Minor Leagues

Mo & I during his 2009 season with the Louisville Bats

Friday, January 7, 2011

No Sugar: what I've learned without it.

Like most Americans, I have my share of mildy-serious addictions.  Off the top of my head- coffee, facebook, the Today Show, queso, my iPhone... 

But there's one in particular that, through my own self-tests & research, I've found to have a profound negative effect on the way that I look, feel, and act. And again, like most Americans, that addiction is sugar- junk, candy, chocolate, cakes, cookies... you name it, I love it. It's always been my downfall when it comes to health & fitness-- not just physical, mental too. A sugar hangover can be even worse than an alcohol hangover and can last days longer. Not to mention added sugar is pretty much socially acceptable everywhere so there's really no escaping it. You get that sugar high off too many rolos, skittles, chocolate chip cookies- whatever your pleasure- and the crash from it is awful. So then your body wants more and since you love it so much and it tastes soooo good, you eat more and it becomes a vicious cycle until eventually its a regular staple in your everyday diet and you don't even notice that you're an addict.  And to be honest, thats probably where about 70% (if not more) of the population is- you don't even know it. You don't know it because you've been doing it this way so long, you don't know the difference in how you feel when it's out of your system... feeling tired & cranky & lethargic is just part of your everyday. And the extra weight you carry because of this socially acceptable addiction... well, that can range from extreme to just that little extra pudge you can't seem to get rid of. 

Five months ago, back in September, after trying and failing time after time to limit my sugar intake, I decided that I was going to go a whole 30 days without any- no candy, cookies, cakes, desserts- nothing with added sugar in it. I wanted to see how I felt with it completely out of my system, hoping it would motivate me to continue to really try to keep my sugar intake to the bare minimum for the rest of my life. 

Why? Not because I was trying to lose weight, but because I knew it would be a healthy lifestyle change that would positively affect me and the people who spend time with me. 
I never felt good after nights of too many Mike'n'Ikes or too much cookie dough- I always woke up the next morning hating myself and feeling like shit the entire next day which would be obvious, mostly to Matt, because I would project that unhappiness onto every aspect of my life. This was not something I wanted to control me forever, especially when I'm eventually ready to start having children. This definitely wasn't an addiction I wanted them to inherit so I knew if I could give myself a few solid years with minimum sugar before having kids, it would help me to guide my little ones into naturally healthy lifestyles. --- I'm always thinking ahead ;)

So I did it. 33 days actually, without any sugar. After the first two weeks, it was a breeze! Even with Mo brandishing Milky Ways in my face or handfuls of Starbursts that he would bring home from the clubhouse, I kept my word and didn't eat a single sugary treat. 
WHAT an amazing experience! What a confidence-builder! The more days I went without, the better I felt about myself and the less I wanted anything to do with sugar. I couldn't believe how good I was feeling, how much better my yoga practice was, how much more drive & focus I had, how much easier it was to get up in the morning, how much easier it was to sleep at night! My whole mentality was positively affected. I had so much more energy. I had a new faith in myself. My spirits were higher, I wasn't moody like I had been and things didn't irritate me as much. My mind didn't feel so scattered all the time. I had deeper feeling of peace. 

I was happier, period. 

And like I said before, although it was not intended for weight loss, my clothes were fitting better, getting looser. The tricky areas (the ones no one else notices but you) were improving, were shrinking. No more bloat, no more pudge. It was truly incredible. 

This one little change I made has touched every other area of my life as well. I instilled discipline in myself and determination. It has helped me to truly see my body as a temple, the only one I've got, so sacred and so deserving of only good things coming into it. I appreciate myself more. I value myself more. I trust myself more. And I appreciate the taste of everything I put into my mouth. I'm more conscious of what I'm eating- what the ingredients are and how much. I'm so much more aware of my body's signals of hunger and fullness. 

These things I've learned, they mean so much to me. I've really proved something to myself that I would have thought impossible last year at this time. Its helped Matt too- he's a HUGE candy-lover and he's cut waaaaaay back. His eating is healthier, its purposeful- so much so that I've had to nag at him to eat MORE so that he doesn't get too thin ;) 

After my 30 days was up, I had a few days (non-consecutive) where I overdid it but I was quickly reminded of the awful after-effects and got right back on my wagon. I went home for the holidays with so much confidence that I didn't have a single holiday treat either. This is the first Christmas I haven't gained weight nor been a moody mess at the beginning of the new year. 

So I've set myself a little challenge for 2011: 12 months with only 1 day per month allowed for sugar. I welcome you to experience this amazing mental & physical transformation, I'd be happy to support anyone who wanted to join me. I can only imagine how good I'll feel after this year... 


I'm at peace with ME. 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

untitled 2011

"I am a student of everything. I learn from the world around me. I study the math of the Universe. The art of life. And the working of nature. I ponder the reasons behind existence. I stare up at the night sky and am amazed at the vastness of what IS. I learn from everyone I meet and anyone who will teach me. I invent. I create. And I build. I am not defined by my career or job or degree. I am more than that. I will not be one thing. I will be EVERYTHING." based on this is my focus this year. I'm determined not to lose sight. 

This year: no expectations. I am open to the infinite possibilities that the Universe has for me. 

Last year was about opening up, being flexible, and getting used to the idea of letting go of control & going with the flow.  

This year I want to BE THE FLOW. 

Last year was a big year of change for me- switching gears from uptight to relaxed, type A to type B(ish).

This year will be a year of GROWTH.

& so I thought the title fitting... 

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Not quite the year we expected, but its been the best of our life.

The phenomenon about gratitude is that its difficult to feel bad when you feel grateful. The mind has only room for one thought at a time.

If there were ever a year for growth, this has been it.  Although things didnt go exactly as we thought they might, Ive seen every single moment unfold into a beautiful journey of self-awareness and genuine happiness - this goes for Matt as well. 

I cant tell you how many times I wanted to feel frustration.  I cant tell you how much negativity and anger started to brew inside me.  But each time, I took a step back and realized just how silly I was being.  Because part of growth is trusting the process - trusting that every situation you are in or not in, is exactly right.  Its exactly where you need to be.

Life is change.
Growth is optional.
Choose wisely. 

As annoyed and bothered as I used to get (and still sometimes do) listening to others complain - about whats not right in their lives, where they should be, why they cant get there faster, what would make them happier (even those who are at the top, actually especially the people who are at the top)... and on and on - I see it so clearly now.  These people are in my life to give me an awareness of an attitude and perspective that I never want to have.  They are here as an example of how things could have ended up if I had allowed it, if we had allowed it. 
And more importantly, now I see that I am a part of their lives to do the exact opposite.  To smile and laugh and enjoy each moment even when things arent going great.  To bite my tongue when Im about to complain, recognizing that it could always be worse.  To always hold my head high, proud of the person that I am and of the person that Matt is.  To set an example every day with every action of loving kindness towards everyone.  To plant in their minds, the seed of possibility that happiness can be attained no matter where you are or what youre doing. 
This realization has given me so much peace of mind during times when I used to get frustrated being around others who just dont get it -- yet.  You see I have this, as Matt would put it, "diluted" faith in humanity.  A trust that all people, deep down, are loving and compassionate and will someday understand.  Maybe not now, maybe now a year from now, maybe not 15 years from now but... someday. 

So, yet again, our lives were shifted a bit this year.  Things changed, as they always do.  And instead of being upset and negative about it,  we chose to evolve.  Our world, especially the baseball aspect, is ever-changing.  Nothing is permanent, nothing is guaranteed, nothing is ever the same.  Thats why you better hope youve chosen an incredible partner to walk this journey with, because THAT is what is going to bring you continual happiness.  
We looked at our situation, being back in triple-A for a third year, and decided to be open to a beautiful season of possibility and growth.  

And let me tell you something so special - I have never felt more connected to another human being in the deepest and truest of ways as I do to Matt after this season.  

Even after 10 years of being in whats always been a healthy and happy relationship, this season connected us in such a powerful way that weve never felt.  We grew so much as a couple and as individuals.

We had our rough moments of frustration with the baseball lifestyle - the instability, the long road trips, the never knowing whats coming next...  You see, baseball tends to dominate our world during the spring and summer months - but not this season.  This season we focused on each other.  We did so many fun things together.  We shared experiences, deep conversations, late nights, early mornings, long walks... and weve never been happier, weve never been closer. 
And I honestly dont know if I would have been able to say this had things gone differently.

Whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the Universe is unfolding as it should. 

My faith in this statement is so deep and so strong now.  

The biggest word in my vocabulary these days... grateful.  At the very end of spring training/beginning of the season - you know, when I told you Matt and I had made up our minds to only see light in the coming situations - we began listing off all the things we were grateful for and all the things we had to look forward to.  As the months passed and Id wake up each day, I would see more and more blessings in my life - no matter what, no matter WHAT.  We let go of the need or the tension of guessing what was coming and simply appreciated the present moment... and when we did that, good things just began to flow like water.  Thats the incredible thing about sincere gratitude - the more you express it, the more blessings the Universe presents to you.  It is an amazing thing. 

And I am finally learning to be comfortable being unemployed at this point in my life. 
I have seen the way this season has gone and I have listened each time Matt has sat me down to tell me how grateful he is to have me home to take care of everything, so that his life is as stress-free as possible and he can focus on the game and BE WITH ME as much as he can because THATS what makes him happy.  And a happy player, plays well.  
I have also been blessed with a chance to have deep conversations with a few other baseball wives with similar anxieties about not working - theyve worked all their lives, have college degrees - but know the importance of togetherness and family and support.  And presented me with a perspective that I had not previously been open to: enjoy it, travel, network - you never know if youll ever have the chance to do it again, so if you are fortunate enough, you shouldnt feel bad about it, you should be grateful for it!  I cant tell you the immensely positive impact this has had on me.

I dont feel quite as awkward answering the question I often get, "So what do you DO?" (which is usually from people with no idea about the baseball world - ie, how hard it is to get someone to hire you when you have no clue how long youll be in that place).

 I appreciate my worth as a wife, as a supporter now.  I see the invaluableness of it.

I am happy. I am filled with so much happiness and it reflects onto everything in my life now.  And I see Matt experiencing the same phenomenon.  He has grown into this amazingly selfless, kind, compassionate, mature and intelligent man.  He gets it. He understands what lifes all about. He wants to experience joy in every situation hes in, not just the "good times."  And he deliberately tries to set an example to everyone around him, teammates included.  He said to me, "Im content with this. With just this. You, the pups, our cozy little apartment. I dont need to make millions. Im content with having just enough to get by."  
And I choked up a little bit.  

I know this: I have everything Ill ever need.