Thursday, December 27, 2012

tikkun olam, again

I've written about this before, but I felt an internal desire to revisit it, so off I go.
this phrase has been placed before me twice in the past few days--first in a novel, and second by my step-father last evening--and I am taking that as a message.
I'd first encountered this phrase a few years back at the Jewish Community Center where I exercise, it was written in big block letters on a sign above a large bin meant to collect donated winterwear.
tikkun olam, hmm, to google I went for a definition.
and what I found felt like home:  repairing the world.
yep, this is one of my roles here, and apparently the Jewish faith insists that it's a role that belongs to all of us.
all of us.
whether it's smiling more, picking up garbage, lending a hand to a stranger, recycling, being frugal with limited resources, or simply being cognizant of your impact on others, we are expected to participate in acts of healing.
the inner frontier expresses it beautifully in the following paragraph:

Tikkun olam encompasses both the outer and the inner, both service to society by helping those in need and service to the Divine by liberating the spark within. As we are, the Divine spark lies hidden beneath our layers of egoistic self-centeredness. That spark is our conscience, through which the promptings of the Divine will flow toward us. By pursuing spiritual inner work to strengthen our soul and purify our heart, we grow more able to bear that spark without shattering, more willing to act on what we know to be right, less willing to act in harmful or grasping ways, and more able to notice the quiet presence of conscience beneath the din of our chattering minds and reactive emotions. The work of transformation, of building a soul, creates a proper vessel for the Divine spark, for our unique share of the Divine Will, returning that spark to the service of the One Who made it. By working to perfect ourselves, perfect our soul, and serve society, we each contribute in our own unique way to the perfecting of the world. This is our duty and our calling as human beings.

who among us is not in need of a little healing?  and a little inner work to find our most beautiful, divine selves at our core?
I plan to hold the concept of tikkun olam in my heart--and hopefully my consciousness--this coming year.  front and center.  
maybe I can find a little world to add to the handlebars on my bike.  because I'm quite certain that in some strange, quirky, perhaps as yet unknowable way, me riding my bike is part of my own personal path of tikkun olam.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

life without a yoga mat

my good friend and biking buddy bob is the one who--through modeling behavior--led me to yoga.
(I am grateful to bob for many things, but this is probably one of the most important.)
bob is going through a very stressful life phase right now, and, when I think about it, has probably been doing the same since I met him.  he holds an important position with our state, he is dealing with a severe illness in his family, and he has a new puppy:   he is a busy guy who never gets enough sleep.
but he always makes time for exercise, and he always makes time for yoga.  he knows that without the mental health benefits of yoga, and the physical (and mental) benefits of exercise, he will be completely unable to do what he must do each day.

I've not been doing well at fitting yoga classes into my life this past month, so what I've done instead is to do a 20-minute routine after my power camp class each wednesday.  I never remember to bring my mat in (it's in the back of my car), so sometimes I do my yoga in socks on the gym floor, and sometimes I do it barefoot in a carpeted room next to the spin room.
and this is what I've learned:  yoga is much more difficult when your hands are slipping.  I can't hold the asanas (positions) as long, nor as well.  my form is poor, my stretches more shallow.  I'm more timid, more careful, less confident.
there's a reason we use yoga mats.

so here's the carryover.  the takeaway.  the life lesson learned:
with the right tools, all projects are easier.

too many times in life I forget to grab my tools.  I don't take the time to go get them, they're lost or misplaced, it seems a burden to find them . . . whatever the reason, I proceed without them.  and the task doesn't go as well as it could.  it takes twice as long, or I ruin something in the process.  on the rare occasion I end up finding a new and better way to do something . . . but not very often.  usually I botch the job or get frustrated by my ineptitude, and--some span of time after beginning--go find the tool I should have gotten in the first place.

they made yoga mats for a reason.  and next wednesday, darn it, I'm going to take my mat with me.  I'm going to sail smoothly through my asanas, my hands firm upon the rubber mat, my form at its best, my confidence returned.  if you're going to do something, you might as well accept help from those who've gone before, who've already walked your path, who've already determined a better way.
I'm going to keep emulating bob, who does a little yoga in his closet each morning, who does a remarkable job of balancing what life's thrown at him, and who always remembers to bring his bike pump when he rides, and his mat when he goes to yoga.

Friday, December 7, 2012

this morning's power camp cycling coach made my day.  
it was about 5:50, nearing the end of class, when she began telling us a story about riding out in the middle of nowhere, all by herself.  she talked about how important her music was--love those ipods--and then she talked about stories she told herself and ways she keeps her mind occupied . . . and then she laughed and said,
I have fun in my head.

I immediately sat up taller, experiencing one of those cathartic moments of connection/validation/ah-ha-ness:  I, too, have fun in my head!
and at times I fear I'm the only one . . . now I know there's at least one other soul out there who does what I do.

I have fun in my head.
I make up stories, I ask questions of the universe.  I create mnemonics to help me remember things I want to write about.  I count things.  I think about all the things in the world I don't know the names of.  I answer questions that oprah asks me during my television interview.  I swoop and admire my own cornering.  I recite song lyrics, noticing just how many gaps in my memory of them exist.  I think about clouds; I laugh at myself.  I count some more, I make up a few more stories, and I plan my next food binge.
have fun

there is a circus in there, myriad characters battling for supremacy, dictators lecturing me, bystanders critiquing my appearance, my form, my thoughts.  there are constantly lists being created, thoughts being swirled, ideas marinating.  outcomes planned, activities rehearsed, humor being found.
and it's this last part, the humor, that keeps it bearable.  without the humor I would drown in the heaviness of what goes on in my head.  

so, thank God for humor, for lightheartedness, for silly jokes and the ability to laugh at oneself.  not only does it keep you sane on interminable bike rides in the middle of nowhere, it keeps you sane in this overwhelmingly complex and extraordinary thing we call life.

ps:  do you know what washes up on tiny beaches?

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . microwaves.