An Old Friend

It has been awhile since a certain old friend of mine made a strong appearance in my life. Honestly, I can say that I have felt her presence for months. A decade ago she had stuck around for many years and then disappeared. Or maybe she just stepped into the shadows for a while. I always knew though that in a moment of vulnerability she could easily step back into my life.

This friend of mine is smart, as well as sneaky, in how she can slip into my life and easily take over. Her presence is big even though she has a tendency to come incognito and honestly, I didn’t really recognize her this time until the middle of the night whispers invited me to take off the blinders and see the truth.

My old friend has name and it is control with a middle name of addiction.

Last fall as I was starting to experience more physical pain than I liked. I also started walking far more than I normally do. My old friend convinced me that this was to manage pain. She told me that the more I walked the better I would feel. She was right. For months and months I walked further and further each day. Indeed the pain felt less. My mind felt clearer and I was more content. Being outside for a couple hours a day walking was balm to my pain.

At first my old friend cheered me on and celebrated with me the miles and miles I would walk. She was step by step with me and the conversations we had were about overcoming the physical pain and building confidence in my body while not letting the pain be the focus.

She told me instead to see and celebrate what my body could do.

In her incredibly manipulative way, soon the walks weren’t enough. She convinced me that I had to have more. My friend persuaded me to attach an outcome to a number of steps and if I wasn’t there, then I was shamed and begrudged for letting pain win. Years ago she had convinced me that if I could just walk a certain amount of steps a day I would be amazing and that anything less than that number was weakness. It took a real friend at a beautiful restaurant in Sedona to shed light on the fact that a silly number was stealing joy from my life. That day, I let my friend control go and she stayed away until last fall.

I have been teaching the yoga principles called yamas and niyamas this month. I realized in the quiet moments of the night that I was allowing this so called friend to blind me from ahimsa (non-harming) and asteya (non-stealing). In demanding my body to perform at a certain level each and every day, I was stealing joy from myself. My walks have become no longer about nature, quiet meditation, health or connection. Instead they became about speed, distance and numbers.

Control + Addiction = Stealing joy.

In doing this for months, I have also turned an eye to non-harming. Yes, walking is the best thing I can do for myself. It DOES reduce my pain greatly. It does clear my head and help my mood. But many of my recent walking has also become a space for shame, anxiety and unworthiness. The addiction to performance and outcomes has begun to overshadow the benefits. The panic that takes over when I am not close to the target increases my agitation and negative thoughts.

One the best feelings in the world is my ability to trust in my inner wisdom to acknowledge it, listen to it, share it and own it. This awareness is the antidote to control and addiction. It also helps to have the real and honest friends who rather than join the negativity and shame, just listen and give advice that is from the heart and from that space of truly seeing me.

This morning as I walked that old friend called control and addiction was thanked because I know that she shows up every once in a while to reel me back into living the authentic life I want to live.

She comes around occasionally to help me peel away another layer of self-worth and doubt to reveal an even clearer and brighter version of myself.

I will keep walking everyday to manage my pain and to bring me joy. I will no longer allow the numbers to steal my joy and harm my heart. Instead I will notice the birds, the changes of the season, the aliveness that is in and around me.

I told control and addiction thanks for the insights and until next time…

Simple Kindness

About six years ago I had a new student come into my classes who later proved to become a sweet friend who never asked for recognition for his mysterious, and always anonymous generosity. He was the example of simple kindness.

If you knew him, you may have not been able to recognize that he was a person living with a traumatic brain injury or that he struggled with all types of pain. His outlook and hash tag on life was #lovemylife. He never complained and was always up for a positive spin on things.

Through the years, I shared yoga and mindfulness with him. I schooled him on the proper way to eat cold chicken (only with mustard). I proudly sent him pictures of my garden bounty and the hikes I took. He returned this with endless versions of simple kindness; countless bags of chocolates delivered to my door, things for my shoes so I don’t slip on ice, he would send his own pictures of amazing hikes, and we often compared notes on Saturday steak nights.

Our friendship was based on simple kindness between two people.

Despite very different lifestyles we connected. What was most intriguing was our communication was only through texting. We disagreed politically and on issues we are both passionate about. Rather than attempt to convince each other that our view was the right view, we chose instead to focus on kindness. We chose to share things with each other that embodied what it meant to live your best life. He cracked lame jokes and always asked me about my health. I made sure he knew I was around and that he was on my mind from time to time.

Simple kindness was the theme of our friendship.

A few weeks ago, I went to see him in person in the hospital as he battled for his life. I rubbed his feet and brought him lemonade. Words were minimal and not needed.

His illness, injuries and life of pain came to an end recently. I know that what he was facing was not living his best life. He also knew it. His need to escape society and head to the woods for months at a time was not something he would be able to do.

I knew his fear and his pain.

Taking a much needed a hike in the trees, I had little chat with him and wished him well on his soul path. As I finished saying my goodbyes, I snapped this photo of the hill I was climbing and the light beam was such an obvious sign.

Nicely done, Scott. I will treasure your spirit and the gift your life was on my path. Enjoy the trees, the hawks and the views.