Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The more you do it, the less it hurts

When I'm teaching the kids and we're stretching, it's not uncommon to hear them say "this hurts!" 99% of the time, it's not an injured or bad kind of pain; it's a sensation that's unfamiliar and uncomfortable. My response is always the same:

Want to know how to make it hurt less? 

The kids who are newer to me look up like I'm about to tell them the greatest secret in the world. I smile, and before I can open my mouth I hear a chorus of my long time students, sometimes with excitement, sometimes with an eye roll,

Do it more! 

You don't learn something new by staying the same. I love the song Painting Pictures of Egypt because it talks about how hard it can be to leave what we know, even for something we know will be better

It's not about losing faith 
It's not about trust 
It's all about comfortable 

The future feels so hard 
And I want to go back 

Familiar things are never easy to discard 
I was dying for some freedom 
But now I hesitate to go 
I am caught between the Promise 
And the things I know 

I like routine. Stability. Familiar. It's not hard for me to find ways to be uncomfortable. But I think it's really important to challenge ourselves because if you only ever do what you know, how will you grow?

I didn't even know this expression of bow pose (dhanurasana) existed until six or seven months ago, so to say I "finally" got into it with ease seems unfair. But bow pose and I have had a love hate relationship for as long as I've been practicing. I have one memory from about a year ago where I requested it specifically because I was having a hard time with it, and the other woman in class (yes, that was my tiny yoga class) said she disliked it. I said, "So do I, but that's why I wanted to work on it". She said, "Huh, I guess that's a good perspective". Even though I have a lot of mobility in my shoulders, flipping my grip has also had quite the learning curve with me, and that combined with the fact that I actually don't have a lot of natural flexibility in my back, has made this pose a challenge.

I kept working on flipping my grip in poses that were easier for me, even though it was still not always comfortable or easy. I worked on one side at a time until today when I could actually grab both and feel good and yes, breathe.

As Coach Kate would say

The more you do it, the less it hurts 

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Trophies Laid Down

Earlier this week, my coworker and I had a alk with our level 2 kids, who are completely scores obsessed. In Washington, they award only all-around and team, so the individual event scores really don't matter. They are so often caught up in waiting for scores to appear on the screen, that they neglect a competing teammate and then talk over their routine. Frankly, it's just annoying and can even be rude.

We told them where all our trophies and medals are today: goodwill, given away, in a box in our parents' basement. We told them they will have a lot of meets and a lot of scores in their lives, but that's not what you look back on. You remember the workouts that seemed impossible until you pushed through and did it. You remember whta it felt like to get a skill you struggled so hard with that you cried about it after practice. You remember the encouraging words of your teammates who always had your back, and you remember the moments your coaches said they were proud.

I was still thinking about this when I was at the gym cleaning party yesterday morning. I was sorting through team trophies for only the most current ones to remain on display. I thought of my old gym and the trophies on the stairwell and in storage closests. I went to the Pacific Rims gymnastics rhythmic competition and had the surprise opportunity to sit with and talk to one of my all-time favorite gymnasts, Nastia Liukin. She was a stunningly beautiful gymnast who overcame a lot of difficulty in the sport, and eventually won the coveted Olympic All-Around gold, but that's not what makes her so impressive to me. She's about to graduate from NYU. She's written a book. She travels as a speaker, encouraging girls of all ages to be themselves and pursue their passions. You can achieve a lot of things, but a closet full of trophies won't give you your joy.

Solomon learned this:

I said in my heart, "Come now, I will test yo uwith pleasure; enjoy yourself." But behold, this also was vanity. I said of laughter, "It is mad" and of pleasure, "What use is it?" I searched with my heart how to cheer my body with wine - my heart still guiding me with wisdom - and how to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was good for the children of man to do under heaven during the few days of their life. I made great works. I built houses and planted vineyards for myself. I made myself gardens and parks, and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees. I made myself pools from which to water the forest of growing trees. I bought male and female slaves, and had slaves who were born in my house. I had also great possessions of herd s and flocks, more than any who had been before me in Jerusalem. I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kinds and provinces. I got singers, both men and women, and many concubines, the delight of the sons of man. So i became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me. And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept from my heart no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil. Then I considered all that my hands have done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun. Ecclesiastes 2:1-11 

You can build an entire empire for yourself, but what will it come to? What will actually give life and joy?

I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; als that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in ll his toil - this is God's gift to man. I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him. That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and God seeks what has been driven away. Ecclesiastes 3:12-15

God has so much more for us than the pries of this world. Its hard sometimes not to get caught up, but I take a lot of joy in knowing the Holy Spirit gives grace to recognize that Jesus is revealing Himself in the friendship, in service, in struggle, in laughter and in freedom.

I love the hymn, The Old Rugged Cross, because it talks about laying our trophies down because Jesus is our ultimate forever prize. 

So I'll cherish the old rugged cross 
Till my trophies at last I lay down; 
I will cling to the old rugged cross
And exchange it someday for a crown 

Jesus is the One who makes us worthy and gives us victory. We are crowned in His glory and grace, not by what we've done, but by who He is. This is the big picture for all competitors to remember. What God does is forever.

For great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord! Psalm 117:2 


Thursday, April 7, 2016

Boring. Beautiful. Ridiculous.

I let things go quiet for almost exactly two months. Honestly, I haven't been writing much. I've been reading a lot of Bible and writing my haiku and I've been reading some other books and keeping track of quotes and a short thoughts on my life, but mostly I've been coaching or doing yoga or too tired for lots of writing and reflecting.

Earlier this week, I sat down and wrote out some thoughts about my yoga practice. I didn't realize how many feelings I was having until I started writing. There were a lot of different directions and offshoots, but they all led me to the same place:

I should take less classes.

If you don't know, I usually take 3-4 classes a day. I take the 6am, teach a couple gymnastics classes, take the noon, teach some more, and then take the 7:45 and the 9 if there is one. It's been my rhythm, but I've felt something nagging at me for awhile now, and I wanted to flush that out.

I started thinking about when I first started practicing and how it made me feel - not so much physically, but emotionally and spiritually. It was soft and satisfying and grounding and freeing all at once. I spent almost every practice "thinking greatly about the greatness of God" (John Owen), meditating on a verse or attribute of God. Even power classes felt deeply restorative to my soul.

Lately, I've felt more disconnected from my faith in my practice. The other day, when I was just outside breathing and moving, I felt very drawn in to the God's presence - the movement felt like responsive worship again. I wasn't doing anything but creating the space to meet God where I was in that particular moment.

I started asking myself what my motives are in practicing, especially some of the difficult postures and variations I do. I think it's wonderful and exciting to push into learning new things and discovering what the body is capable of. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with handstands and deep backbends and full expressions, but I do think it's important to keep asking myself, "What am I doing here?"

Am I trying to learn more about this body formed by the Lord of all creation? (Psalm 139) 

Am I tuning out the cares and concerns of this world in order to see and hear Jesus more clearly? 

Am I stripping myself raw so I can come to the cross for healing, wholeness and grace? 

Am I experiencing what it means to have been dead and made alive ? 

I've been told I must have discipline to be so dedicated to my practice, but I think practicing less might actually be evidence of a greater discipline in my life. I think it will be more purposeful, focused and intentional. Quieter, but still beautiful.

I recently read both of Addie Zierman's memoirs, and I have a few of those quotes in mind as I write and reflect now

Faith is a lot like Wisconsin: a series of repetitive ups and downs, the natural rise and fall of the road that stretches before you. Boring. Beautiful. Sometimes ridiculous. When We Were on Fire

I wish someone had told me then that eventually the fire would go out and it would be okay. That it didn't mean my faith was dying. I wish someone had told me that the fire doesn't make me whole, that I am whole because of Jesus, whether I feel Him or not. Night Driving

Love doesn't always look like romance and faith doesn't look like fire and light doesn't look like the sun - and this matters. Night Driving

And this verse, running strong through each practice this week:

For now I see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.  1 Corinthians 13:12 

 I am already fully loved and fully known; this is my comfort. And my hope is that one day, I will know what it is to be truly united with God through Christ and that is the best fullest expression I could ever imagine. I admire those faith and practices that are like Wisconsin. Maybe it's because I was born and raised there, but would it really be so bad to live an entire life like that?



A little ridiculous 

 Me, at the beach today, finding joy in the Giver of life and breath and everything