My Digital Declutter Experience
I began a digital declutter on January 1st. This experience was offered by the writer and professor, Cal Newport. In his book “Deep Work,” Cal tells us that the internet and addictively designed social media apps are robbing of us our time and making us unable to concentrate. These products are robbing our ability to work and think deeply, and affecting our ability to pay attention and be productive.
In yoga, the concept of Dharana is one of the eight limbs. Dharana is our ability to concentrate the mind on a thought or task as preparation for meditation. As I thought about digital clutter, I thought on the many times I have found myself wasting time scrolling on social media, or browsing the internet when I could have been doing something more productive. As I read “Deep Work,” I started to realize that these seeming harmless apps may be causing much more harm than I thought. If you are interested in learning more, you can watch his Tedtalk or, I suggest you too read the book as I won’t go into all those details here. When Cal offered a test group to participate in a January “Digital Declutter” I took the plunge and unplugged.
He gave us many choices for participation. I opted to completely stay away from all social media. For me that meant absolutely no Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. FB and IG are my two big online apps. I removed all notifications from my phone so it wasn’t buzzing at me all day. I have been checking email regularly (that means several times a day, completely off by 7-8 PM each night). I feel that email is an area I could work on for myself, checking less frequently.
I use Facebook for a lot of promotional work for my home studio, classes, trainings, and special events. using their “Create Event” feature. Inevitably, event promo leads to needless scrolling and wasting of time. People do sometimes get in touch with me about classes through my studio page on FB. So this is my biggest area of struggle. I have not been on to check this at all and I do have some studio events coming up that I am not posting about. I do worry just a little bit that I am missing out on some dialogue and promo. But I am not worried enough to break this peaceful session away from distraction.
Benefits and Joys
I must say that I am actually enjoying this time away from social media; I am enjoying being more intentional with my online use. I love my head space right now! At first, I had this brief twitch whenever I turned on the computer to go check my page. But now I don’t even want to check. In fact, I am not looking forward to going back to these services once January is over! I enjoy not having to bother with those sites at all. AND, I am making TONS of art in between my teaching responsibilities- putting in 2-5 hours per day painting. I am thrilled with how frequently I am painting! I feel like I am being much more intentional and useful with my time.
My thoughts on going forward are to only allow myself to use social media once per week, strictly for promo and communication. I thought to myself, I use an online accounting service to log my income and expenses, why not think of social media like that? I don’t desire to use my accounting service more than once per week. Social Media should be a tool to help me promote when needed, but I suspect I can use it far less and still be effective. We shall see what happens.
I seek a sweet inner quiet space. I seek a time for deep reflection and deep creative, reflective, and spiritual work. I desire to spend time being creative and to cultivate connections with care and attention. I am participating in a January “digital declutter”. I hope to spend time each day out in nature and to be fully present with my family and loved ones, to not be distracted by tech devices plinking away with texts and mindless use of my precious time. I have already stepped back from social media use and it has left me with a much better sense of self and mind.
I will be stepping away from all social media use during the month of January and I will engage in limited technology use. I will check email, manage this website, and you may contact me here. I will also send a few hand written, and even typewriter typed, letters during the month of January. Remember when we had penpals? It may be time to return to that level of connection and attention.
I hope to do some deep work in this quiet time away from draining distractions. After January, I will revisit my usage and decide how to best move forward.
Be well, and use your precious time with great care.
“We breathe, we pulse, we regenerate. our hearts beat, our minds create, our souls ingest. Thirty-seven seconds well used is a lifetime.” ~Mr. Magorium
Tend To Your Internal Flame
Fire is mysterious. Fire is dangerous. Fire out of control can take down entire environments. Fire can also heal and nourish. Fire holds an important history in our mythology – as we learned to bring the element under our control, we found that it held the same potential for damage, but now we could wield it at our will. From that point forward, humans exerted great control over the natural environment, for better and for worse. We utilize the element of fire to cook our food, to keep away the dangers of night, to light our spaces long after the fire of the sun travels out of view. At this time of year, the darkest time as we approach the Winter Solstice, fire keep us warm at night and brings us light.
In many cultures, fire is sacred, and offerings are made to the fire for cultivation of intentions and for release. How can we harness the power of fire to tend to our internal flames of dedication and evolution? How can we lead a life of light and energy? Fire offers us many lessons.
How to tend to your flames and connect to the fire element
When my children were small, we read many books on Waldorf philosophy, and even used Waldorf-inspired homeschooling for a time. Waldorf stressed the importance of letting children have access to the four main elements every day. Children needed time to play with the earth – dirt, sand, mud; time to connect with water – rivers, brooks, or just in the bath tub; time to connect with air – fans, bubbles, and kites; and time to connect with fire – bonfires, campfires, fireplaces, candles. I think this applies to adults too. With so much screen time (ether element) we can feel like we are out of sorts and experiencing a loss of grounding.
You can tend to your internal fires by taking time to light candles, especially during this Winter Solstice season. I have enjoyed using this handmade oil lamp at our dinner time as a family reminder of fire. I also enjoy lighting incense and placing it at my altars. If you have wood stoves and fire places, take time to mindfully and ritually start your fire. Don’t look at it as simply another ‘chore’, but see your ancestors starting fires at their hearth places for centuries. Keep a sacred attitude toward the nourishing warmth the fire will provide you. Cooking can also connect us to fire, especially if you have a propane stove, but electric can also work. Making a simple pot of tea can connect you to the fire element.
In addition to spending time connecting externally to flame and fire, we should cultivate the fire within. What does nourishing our internal fires look like in our own lives? It looks like commiting to rhythm and routine around our daily activities. It also ooks like a passion for life, and a joy in the simple pleasures of daily living. If we wish to create positive change in our lives, our best approach is to pick a few small areas to change, and be committed and consistent with that change, otherwise our passion for change will start out as a huge flame and then die out when we have no more fuel. It is absolutely essential to start small. If you put too much wood on a fire too soon, you are going to put it out and have cold wood. Pick just a few things to change, just as you would pick a few small pieces of kindling. Once those small pieces are going strong, you can throw on a larger log.
Tend to these simple routines first:
- Regular waking and bed times
- Regular meals of whole foods, as close as possible to their natural state, and in season
- Gratitude practice: Before bed, or anytime you can recall – reflect on three things from your day that you are grateful for. Gratitude Grows Grace.
Once those three items are fully in place, then focus on your larger kindling. These should be tended to daily, but only within 5-8 minutes to start. Remember, start small and let the fire grow form there:
- Daily Natural Movement – not just repetitive exercises, but activities that move you through your natural full range of motion.. Walking, hiking, dancing, yoga, and tai chi are a few examples of natural movement. You should find one that you enjoy. You only need eight – ten minutes a day.
- Daily Stillness – find time each day to sit quietly and be with your breath. Eight – ten minutes a day is all you need to glean the benefits.
- Nourishing intake: This means carefully choosing your media intake: tv, internet, social media, phone use, news, reading, etc… Anything you take in through your senses you are essentially ‘eating’ with your mind. Choose carefully to avoid mental indigestion.
Consider these actions steps as kindling to keep a consistent fire burning. Once they are fully in place, then you can consider larger logs to set your internal fire ablaze.
Note: The following words are the musings and opinions of a spiritual aspirant. I am a non-expert and non-scholar of Indian Philosophy and humbly offer these thoughts.
It is easy for anyone on the spiritual path to feel caught up in thinking that our current life state is due to past karma. The perception may be that we have a great deal of positive or negative karma, either way the attachment is the same. Something we did before is now affecting us, and we rest in the state of that guilt. It may very well be true that we did something awful or even wonderful in the past (current life or past lives) that is affecting our time here and now. But that line of thinking doesn’t really help one to move forward, rather can have the affect of us obsessing over the past. I find this to be a problem with the concept of karma. What happened before is done and over. What really matters is what you do now and how you react now. How can you navigate your daily life so that you reduce the affects of further accumulating karma? What thought patterns are running through your mind, and how can you bring them to a more self honoring state?
How can we honor the sacred space of self and other? How do we reduce negative effects of the ego self and strive to grow a more sattvic way of living? A beloved teacher of mine instructs that the path should consist of monitoring your thoughts, noticing what arises without guilt or blame, and honoring your daily living. The actions are so simple. Are you being mindful when you eat, with each bite? Can you notice the food as you eat it, without the mind wandering or judging? Are you being mindful with your relationships? Can you be present with someone and truly listen, without judging or imposing your thoughts and beliefs onto them? Do you need to interject with an opinion? Are you taking care of your self and making time for a sacred practice (Asana, breathwork, meditation, or any other special practice)? Do you honor your living space and home? Do you tend and care for it? Are you honoring your obligations, and if you have too many, are you able to express good boundaries and limitations on your time?
These are just a few ways that we move forward, no matter what our past ‘karma’ might have been. It is daily work, and when carefully tended to reduces the likelihood that we will accrue more karma, especially negative karma.
If in doubt, tend to the simple acts of daily life with honor and care.
Since going gray, I have received many wonderful comments from my yoga students each week in class! I certainly have a supportive network around me. Going gray was and is a very personal decision. I certainly wasn’t ready for a long time, and I will not judge another person’s decision about their own health and beauty choices. But I will say that it should be socially acceptable for a woman to not dye her hair. It was 9 1/2 months ago that I decided enough was enough. I was tired of covering up my hair with toxic chemicals every two weeks. I couldn’t keep on top of those gray roots! I tried henna, “natural dyes, ” and more — you name it, I tried it. Being conscious of my health and the environment is so important to me, and I felt that I simply wasn’t walking my talk. I said to Josh “I am done dying my hair, and it doesn’t matter to me who doesn’t like it.” I meant it, but it was still difficult at times. Those first few months were rough. Also, I did this during our big move and transition, an emotionally challenging time — so that certainly did not make it easier! But my family was so supportive, especially Josh and my girls. I am so happy I made this decision. I feel like me, and I am not hiding anything anymore. Some might think I look older. I would say to them: This is what a healthy 41-year-old woman and mother of two looks like — get used to it. We need to rethink what age means and what aging looks like. As a culture, we are not used to seeing women under 80 years old with gray hair, never mind women under 50 with gray hair! I am willing to bet that a lot of women my age are gray. Now I can’t wait for long flowing silver locks!
There are days when I think I should change the name of this website. The name fell into place as I was redesigning my former website. It wasn’t entirely intentional to name it “powerful woman yoga”. It felt catchy at the time, it resonated with feminine empowerment, and it was an english variation of my previous Sanskrit name “Shakti Yoga”- the divine feminine in yoga. Honestly, some days it feels pretentious. Who am I to claim this name? There are far more powerful and courageous women out there. Some days it just feels fake. I am a mere white woman- many would consider the classic modern day yogi- a nearing middle- or perhaps fully middle age- white woman who can touch her toes and show off some fancy poses, who sometimes wears flashy looking yoga pants. So for that reason the very existence of it all feels wrong and insulting.
There are more powerful women out there. There are women who are bold activists in equality, in racial harmony, and in fighting for our earth’s health. There are women who have stood up in abusive relationships and faced deep addictions, women who balance work and family as a single mother, women who fight institutionalized racism, and women who fight for Indigenous rights. I am none of those women.
Some people are disturbed with what I do, teaching yoga and leading Kirtan as a caucasian non-Indian, trained by another middle aged caucasian woman. I have had others tell me it isn’t right, that perhaps I have no place. Maybe my pronunciation isn’t quite right, or I take too many creative liberties to the traditions. Perhaps they are right. In fact, they are right. If I offend, I apologize. That is never my intention. I will try harder to be kinder and to understand.
I have considered changing paths entirely, finding a new destiny. Maybe yoga isn’t for me. Maybe Kirtan isn’t for me. Perhaps there are too many rules to break, too many people to upset and offend by doing what I do, and maybe getting a “real job” with a steady paycheck would be a better path. Maybe it is wrong to consider teaching yoga my “job” anyway. Maybe folks are right, that this isn’t what I should be doing. The name is wrong and there isn’t anything powerful in what I do or who I am.
I recently read an article on race and hate and the opening lines discussed how the author felt her approach to the topic wasn’t the most perfect way to approach an issue, that the author was likely to be making all sorts of mistakes, and she might even change her mind later. But she still felt compelled to move forward with it. Starting the conversation seemed important, even if it wasn’t completely correct and others needed to help her see more clearly. Something clicked in my mind as I read those words. Yes, there are doubts along the path. Yes there are naysayers, and yes they may very well be correct. But somehow here I am, and I am treading a path. I feel better taking some sort of step, some sort of direction than to fear doing it wrong and to never take a step at all.
So here are my true confessions: I am fully flawed. As much as I try not to offend other cultures and races, I acknowledge that I do with frequency. Even simply running this site and teaching yoga and chanting as I do offends others, specifically Indians and Hindus. I am aware of this. It hurts. Sometimes those conversations make me quite upset. I loose my temper. I sometimes react unreasonably. I get jealous. I try to justify my actions. Some days, I don’t feel powerful at all and am not interested in taking a stand. But somehow, I move forward with all of my flaws and the hope to do better and to make amends.
So for now the name will stay, if not for the mere logistics in the difficulty of changing the name at this point. But also because it causes conflict. It makes me consider what it really means, because it isn’t perfect, and it very well may not be “right”. I take another step and try to do better, knowing more errors are likely to be made, but not being afraid of the errors. I realize they are the doorways and the opportunities to grow and improve. They are the opportunities to make amends. The errors are the work that is needed to be done, to open the door to those difficult conversations and sensations. We shall see where it takes us.