I know 2020 will probably go down in history as the most universally hated year ever, but honestly, I've learned and grown so much this year that it is impossible for me to label this year 'the worst'.
If you're rolling your eyes right now (and that's a totally valid response)... just hear me out. In this blog I will talk about some of the most important and impactful things that I experienced and learned this year. These things are what I would call my 'saving grace's of the year. These things gave me hope when the situations seemed hopeless. They gave me goals when life seemed at a standstill. These things helped me sit in the suck... Not only was I okay with sitting in the suck, but I was growing in ways I never imagined.
Of course, this list is in no way inclusive of all of the amazing, wonderful, incredible, mind-blowing, and awesome things that I am grateful for this year. I am a bit of a gratitude junkie and I could go on all day about how I'm thankful for the air that I breathe, my incredible body, the internet, those pink pompom shoes I love, these fluffy dogs, the bad hair cuts I gave them, my incredible husband, broccoli, and sooo sooo many other things. However, I know you're a very busy and important person so I'll keep it short and sweet. These are also in no particular order.
In February of this year I traveled to India where I met with one of my favorite people in the world, Amanda, to complete our 300 hour yoga teacher training. I won't lie to you, I had pretty medium expectations for traveling to India (thanks to my layover on the way to Nepal and a terrible airport experience in 2019). I have to say that India was incredible and impressed more each and everyday. We lived in the ashram at the school, and we had classes from 5AM until 9PM everyday. The food was delicious, the people we met were amazing, and the classes were more than I could have hoped for. We were living, breathing, eating, and sleeping yoga. Before we arrived in India, I felt like I had been disconnected from my personal practice of yoga. I felt like I wasn't knowledgable enough, that I didn't practice enough, that I didn't meditate regularly. These long and short weeks in India reminded me of how much I did know, and how I can see the results of my practice in my physical body, and that I could meditate in the middle of chaos. I feel like I stepped back into my own personal power and I'll do my very best to never step out of it again.
Speaking of India... I'll start with a short story about my friend Amanda. Before we were heading for our intensive teacher training she and I were worried about different obstacles on the same trip. She was worried about the amount of meditation we were about to be practicing and I was worried about the amount of physical asana we were going to be practicing each and every day. So while I was hitting the gym weeks before our trip, she was hitting her meditation cushion. I remember she would text me when she had a particularly difficult mediation practice because of dogs barking, family interruptions, and general stuff that gets in the way of anyone's mediation practice. I had this idea of being on cushions in these zen rooms with soft warm lights or maybe in the grass as the sun slowly set surrounded by peaceful nature when we would practice in India. I'm here to tell you that India is the loudest place on the planet. Everyone uses their car horn all day long for all reasons... It's almost like they get more points the more they honk it. There was even this one type of horn that I called the 'elephant horn' that was particularly over the top. During the day the dogs lazed around napping in the sunlight on the grass, but as soon as the sun set they had a very important dog conversation that they needed to have with every other dog in the city. They barked ALL NIGHT LONG. Speaking of all night long, did you know that Indian weddings can last up to 7 days or longer? They can and we had the 'wedding of the century' right next door to the ashram. Sometimes if we were too sleepy in our 5AM mediation class RamJi would turn the florescent lights on to make sure we didn't sleep. Oh, and it was so incredibly cold in the mornings that we all bought 'mediation pants' that were lined with literal blankets. Fun fact about the mediation pants, the crotch will, without a doubt, rip. Why am I painting you such a loud and not-so-comfortable picture? To prove that anyone can mediate anywhere, anytime, under any circumstances. In fact when we came back from India my friend suggested gently that I mediate for 22 minutes everyday to keep up my practice. I was expecting 5 or maybe 10 minutes daily... 22 minutes seemed excessive. But, I am stubborn and I like to hit my goals so I meditated for 22 minutes everyday for 90 days. This is when I finally felt like I was meditating 'correctly'. I'm telling you this to say that mediation takes practice just like anything else. You can't expect to balance perfectly in a handstand in your very first class never having attempted one before.. and you can't expect to feel like a rockstar mediating without practice. This practice helped keep me grounded and sane during the restrictions for COVID and I am eternally grateful. I think meditation should be practiced by everyone because the shifts in your mental health, physical body, and overall well-being are incredible. I felt like this practice was so important that I went out of my way to take an additional Mediation Teacher Certification so I could teach mediation outside of the scope of yoga as well as within it. I learned scientific benefits of yoga as well as ways to make it more approachable for all people to incorporate it into their lives.
I might have mentioned how thankful I am for the internet, but I'm here to mention it again. Can you even imagine this pandemic without the internet? No google, no netflix, no online shopping. While I did enjoy all of those things, what I enjoyed the most was online yoga. I started teaching classes online because we were all stuck at home trying to keep ourselves and our neighbors and our friends safe from this virus. My intention behind my very first series "Beginner's Yoga" was to educate my students on the many different types of yoga and guide them through a practice that felt good for them. The hardest part for me when walking into a yoga studio for the first time knowing no one and nothing about yoga was the vast vocabulary I knew nothing about. What was the difference between a vinyasa class and a yin class? I had so many beautiful and familiar faces in my first series! I was overwhelmed with love and appreciation. I just knew that at the end of the month we would all go back to our lives and people would be able to walk into a studio armed with the knowledge to choose a class they would like. I'm rolling my eyes about how naive I was about the timeline in my head... However, what I learned was that online yoga was better live than recorded because there is accountability and energy flowing... It is so much more personal. Online yoga is incredibly private. You're practicing in your home and not worrying about what you look like or if others are looking at you. I also loved teaching a yoga class that was more than just the physical asana practice. All of my series since have been themed with questions and discussion about various yoga topics and how they apply to our real lives. Of course, we still practice asana, but the combination of learning and moving is something magic. I have the greatest little community of online yogis and I wouldn't trade it for the world. They've helped me grow so much as a teacher and I am excited to continue to create these classes.
The other side of that coin is that I have been able to take classes online as well. I am a forever student and I love learning. Thanks to this pandemic guidelines about yoga continuing education adapted to include online courses. This was incredible in a few different ways. First, now people from all over the planet could join in on these courses instead of only people that were local. Then, these courses were more affordable because more people could attend. Finally, these courses provided studios with the must needed income to help them stay afloat while having to keep their doors closed. I also had a lot of extra free time on my hands so it was pretty much win all around for me. This year I took a Bhakti course (focus on chanting), a mediation teacher certification, and reiki level I & II, This doesn't include the workshops or classes I attended. I was able to practice with teachers I loved from India. Overall this was so wonderful and I am so proud I took these opportunities to grow in my practice.
This might sound a little crazy, but if you live in Okinawa you get it. We have had some strict 'restrictions' during this pandemic. Unlike our fellow Americans we can see complaining on the internet.. If we break the rules we can be sent back to America without our spouses. Even if those rules sometimes seem a little ridiculous. Honestly, it has been really tough for me (and I'm sure for others too) to see so much complaining from Americans when our commands told us we could only go to two stores and those were the commissary and the exchange. I've never had to do so much cooking. One of our favorite things to do is to go out to eat. And the vegetables are crazy expensive at the commissary. I'm talking $8.99/lb for cherries, $6.99/lb of brussel sprouts, $9.95/5lbs of potatoes, and $2.95/ head of broccoli. So when we finally (I'm talking months) were allowed to get take out food again, I was elated. I let all of the expensive vegetables die in order to eat a curry I didn't have to make. This was one of this 'little things' that was really a big deal. We can't anymore with the current restrictions, but we were even able to eat at outside restaurants for a minute. We barely knew how to contain ourselves.
Restrictions Of Movement. Even those of you in Oki are rolling your eyes at this one. Well, for those you that don't know deployments are still happening even in the age of COVID. (oh, yay.) So, when Jon got back from his mando cruise (missing all of the typhoons of the season as per tradition I might add) we had to stay inside together for two weeks! What a welcome home. Reintergration after deployment is an interesting time for couples and families anyway. So add in a pandemic, top with some gin, sprinkle with some video games, and you've got yourself a grand ol' time. We have spent more time in our apartment together this year than we probably ever have since we are really social people that are always out and about. This has given us the time and space to grow closer and strengthen our marriage.
Speaking of being at home more than ever before, I'm pretty sure this has been the best year for Snow White and Belle. I wasn't sure how people lived without dogs before, but I'm really not sure how people could ever live without dogs (or pets in general) again. These two pups have been my companions, friends, nap partners, painting assistants, and the first clients of my sure-to-fail dog grooming business. These girls were my reasons to take walks each day and enjoy the beauty of the world around me. Every morning I wake up with my phone still locked out for screen time, get dressed, and we go for a short technology free walk. Words can't quite describe how much they mean to me, but i'm sure they understand.
My house has always been one of my favorite places to be but, I never thought I would be spending THIS much time at home. I'm thankful for these walls filled with the people, animals, and things that I love. This place that I am most comfortable and free. You can read that as pants-free... also, we're just not doing real pants again when this whole thing is over right? I have never really appreciated the place where I rest, love, cook, read, learn, create, dance, sing, and do all of the other weird shit I do as much as I have this year. I am so lucky and so thankful for this apartment that we call home.
Finally, the thing I am most grateful for this year is me. I have spent more time sober, in silence, sweating, practicing, painting, sitting, and simply being me this year than ever before. I've always been my biggest fan, but the sitting in silence really helps you get to know yourself better and on a more intimate level. Sitting in the suck helps you notice the light and dark parts of your personality. I notice my reactions and my triggers. I analyze my feelings and look for the root causes of these reactions. I've taken closer looks at my habits. I've paid more attention to the natural rhythm of the sun, the moon, the stars, and the planet to see how these effect my life. I have taken more fancy flower baths than I can possibly count. I am so thankful for this forced time to be alone, be bored, and be still. I can look for the lessons in each moment of suck. The more I practiced meeting the moment as it is instead of fighting it because it is not what I wanted it to be the easier life flows with me. This year I shifted from "life is happening to me" to "life is happening for me". For that, I am forever grateful.
While this year has had its challenges, but I would not consider it a 'bad' year. I think this year has been filled with lessons that forced me to sit still and listen to myself. I say in my yoga classes "when we're uncomfortable that's when we begin to grow" and I have really grown this year in more ways than I could have imagined. I am more grateful for life than ever before. If this year has been tough for you, I would encourage you to pause and search for the good. Look for the new skills you learned, the ways you have adapted. Look how many 'meetings that could have been emails' that are now just emails! So many of my friends make bread and cook gourmet meals now along with countless other new and exciting hobbies and passions. If you're here and reading this, know that I am thankful for you and being part of my life. I am proud of you for making it through this year. We've all been sitting in the suck and we all deserve some grace. Cheers to the end of 2020!
Here's to the next year, may it better than our last.
Photo by the amazing: Tiffany Marie Photography