Fear, Determination, and Joy

I woke up this morning to find my cat sitting outside in the grass staring up at the bird feeder in my garden. Inside the bird feeder was a squirrel eating breakfast. I stood quietly by my window watching my cat circle the base of the bird feeder. Realizing the feeder was too high for her to jump into, she began looking about for leverage. A perch, a branch, a garden decoration… anything that would give her the slightest bit of leverage in her quest to catch the squirrel.

The squirrel, understanding she was safely out of harms way, continued enjoying her morning meal. Despite the predator lurking below, she blissfully cracked open sunflower seeds, dropping shells on the cat’s head. She chirped whenever she found a piece of corn. She shook and fluffed her tail. And she contently altered her gaze from the warm sun above her to the circling cat below.

As I observed the animals, I saw two distinct forces at work: An unshakable determination by my cat and bold fearlessness on the part of the squirrel.

There was nothing my cat wanted more than to pounce on the squirrel perched eight feet above her head. I have a small table and chairs next to the bird feeder. She climbed up on each one of them, sat down, and stared upward. She would inch her way to the very edge of each perch she tried, sticking her nose out as far as possible, and calculating her chances of success should she decide to leap up into the air. She would jump down, circle again, and seek out the other possibilities for propelling. I admired her dedication toward the hunt, her thoughtful consideration of each opportunity to get closer to the squirrel, and her unwavering focus.

In contrast to the hunter, the small grey squirrel sat peacefully inside the wooden structure of the bird feeder.  She knew, beyond any doubt, that she was safe. She ate her corn and seeds fearlessly. She refused to pay the least bit of concern to her stalker. She languished in the sun with her full tummy for as long as she pleased before gracefully hopping onto a cherry tree branch and scurrying up toward her nest.

I wondered a few things to myself as I watched the cat and the squirrel…

How often do I allow myself the immense pleasure of enjoying life without letting fear frame the surface of my experiences?

Am I ever as determined as my cat in the things I endeavor to do?

What happens to me in the contrast between joy, determination, and fear; and how does it affect my rate of success in the goals I set for myself?

This morning I am thankful to a cat and a squirrel for teaching me some valuable lessons about fear, peace, joy, and determination. I’m excited to see where this new perspective will lead me…

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Bikram Yoga Humor: Day 59

One of the instructors at my yoga studio shared this video on her Facebook page… Hilarious!


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Make Up Your Mind: Day 58

How does one become a butterfly?  You must want to fly so much that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar.  ~Trina Paulus

What courage and determination a caterpillar must have while dreaming in her chrysalis!

It takes approximately 10 days to go from this…

to this…

Can you imagine what would happen if the caterpillar became indecisive in the mists of growing her wings?  I dare say she must simply make up her mind and realize that nothing else matters.

I hear this message and phrase almost every time I walk into the hot room… especially at the beginning of the standing series. “Make up your mind to lock your knee. The posture doesn’t start until you make up your mind and lock your knee.”

As I stand on my mat, preparing to clutch my right foot in my hands and kick it firmly out in front of me, I turn my attention to my left knee. What does it take to make this leg firm, strong, and unbending? How do I will my mental determination into my knee joint while simultaneously sucking in my stomach, not loosing my hand grip on the other leg, and attempting to lean forward? Oh, yeah, and let’s not forget to flex my foot, stretch my achilles tendon, keep my gripped leg locked, not loose my balance, and breath normally through my nose.

I do it by making up my mind. Each step of the way is a choice. Yes, I can lock my knee. Yes, I can grab my foot. Yes, I can balance. Yes, I can breath. Yes, I can start over if I fall out. And so it goes, with each posture, for 90 minutes. I make up my mind. Nothing else matters.

For 58 days of this challenge I’ve made up my mind. Nothing else mattered. It’s the reason I got in the car even when I was tired, did doubles to make up for the days I was sick, spent my birthday and Valentines Day on a yoga mat instead of out with my husband, and overcame everything else it took to get to this point.

In two days from now, I will break out of my challenge chrysalis and spread my yoga wings… because, like the caterpillar, I made up my mind and nothing else mattered.

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Silence: Days 56 – 57

I did a double session last Friday to catch up on my classes and finish my challenge on time. I walked in for the noon session thoroughly ready to be kicked in my yoga butt. However, upon entering the studio, I was greeted with a, “Hi, we’re doing a silent class today.”

I had no idea silent classes existed in the Bikram world. Usually, the instructor sits up on a box and talks the entire 90 minutes…

“Go down and push! And Push! And Push!”

“Lean back! Fall back! Way back! Change.”

“Lock your knee! Lock your knee! Lock your knee!”

“Pull! The object of stretching is pulling! The harder you pull you can stay here forever!”

“Lift your chest off the floor like a 747. Go up much higher! This is so good for your back!”

“Put your exactly forehead on your exactly knee.”

Bikram yoga is intense. The dialogue is intense. The heat is intense. So when I heard the word silent in conjunction with the concept of the hot room, I was both intrigued and perplexed. The experience ended up being amazing!

There was no one watching me. All my instructors, at one time or another, have all given the advice to take the ego out of the practice. I have never fully been able to do this because, up until last Friday, there was always someone watching me. There was always someone shouting out directions. There was always someone either correcting or complimenting the postures. Therefore, I was always paying attention to an outside force and allowing said force to envelope my practice in varying ways.

That wasn’t the case during my silent yoga experience. I was fully relaxed at the start of Pranayama breathing, which finally helped me understand what to do with my shoulders.  I became fully internal in my practice, so I was able to focus on my breath and balance from a new perspective. This helped me to open up more during standing bow pulling pose and relax my belly during tortoise. I understood MY limits. I pushed past MY discomfort. I allowed MY body to guide MY practice.

I discovered a sense of love and gentleness in the hot room I never knew existed. I absorbed this new found wisdom into the open pours of my sweaty skin. I let it sink in and take root. In the days to follow, I will encourage this wisdom to grow and blossom as a part of my daily practice.

90 minutes of silent, moving meditation. What a gift.

We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls. ~ Mother Teresa

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Surprises: Days 40 – 55

I’m always surprised when it comes to my yoga practice. There are days I walk into the hot room mentally devouring another chance to bend, twist, stretch, and extend, only to find my body unwilling to cooperate. Other days it’s exactly the opposite. My mind struggles while my body delights in the physical challenges of posture after posture in 105 degree heat.

I think that’s why I love this yoga. It’s the same 26 postures in the same order every day, so it feels as though there should be no surprises. Yet, every single day is a different experience. I can’t predict, from class to class, posture to posture, breath to breath, what will happen next.

All I can do is stay in the moment and do my best with whatever I have. 

In the yoga room and out, this is one of the best lessons I’ve absorbed during my 60 Day Challenge. I dont’ have to live in the past or worry about the future. I can simply exist in the present and breath. Freedom. Liberation. Joy. Serenity. These are the gifts I’m allowing to settle into my soul to replace the stress I sweat out on the mat.


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Toe Stand!: Day 39

Nothing is impossible, the word itself says ‘I’m possible’!  ~Audrey Hepburn

My impossible –  I’m possible –  in yoga is toe stand.

It’s the posture I thought I’d never be able to scrunch myself into. But on day 39… I did it! No, I didn’t get my hands into prayer position. Yes, I fell out of it onto my butt.  But on day 39 of my challenge… I did a toe stand! The other unheard of thing I did was smile for most of the floor series.

I wish always to strive to do the I’m possible. It’s so very rewarding when I accomplish it!


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If It’s Important: Days 36 – 38

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve heard in the yoga room is this:

“Let everything go for the next 90 minutes. Anything of importance will still be there when class is over. Everything else will disappear.” 

This has held true for me every time I’ve gone into the hot room. Whatever’s on my mind is somehow transformed into the manageable or the unnecessary. What’s manageable is loved, honored, cherished, accepted, or dealt with. What’s unnecessary is no longer a part of me.


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