Blogging at least through another juice cleanse. Seeking to cleanse, renew, engage in ample gratitude, love, rekindle, and live.
I suppose I could be trendy and call this past year a quarter-life crisis, but internal shifts have been happening.
Somewhere in my late teens I developed the notion (for many different reasons) that kindness, compassion, and love were secondary to truth and being radical. Anger and a kind of in-your-face tenacity were somehow more powerful than acts of kindness. For me, though, anger was draining me completely. I would get really passionate about something and fizzle out years, months, even weeks later. This isn’t me though. I know people who are truly placed to do amazing work through their righteous anger and direct action; all my attempts at this, however, left me empty and simultaneously reaching for something to fill the space.
Four and a half years ago, I discovered that sitting, listening, talking, and learning with adolescents unlocked a whole new part of myself I had been denying. (My mom is a teacher … I knew how hard teachers work and how little respect teachers get outside the classroom, sometimes even within the classroom.) I have been teaching full time in New York City for three years now. I love learning and teaching. I dislike the system, immensely, but this is not the forum for that.
This year has had some bumps. The system nearly ate the spirit of our haven school. A person in power attempted some abuse through verbal and written communication. A veteran and mentor teacher with tears in her eyes told me, “Get out, Gracie. Get out before they kill your spirit too.” Things got so bad I applied to a fancy private school to teach without the constraints of the DOE, standardized testing, mandated curriculum, et al. On the day I scheduled for my final interview, I pinched a nerve in my back. The universe in her infinite wisdom put a kibosh on that, and for which I am eternally grateful as it contradicts everything I want to be as a teacher in a public, free system. Still, the days often felt like harsh beatings.
I got angry and carried that torch of righteousness, but I felt myself begin to fizzle and empty. Alternative plans formed in my head, but the reality is that I love my students. I love educating - the learning and teaching that happens everyday. I love seeing kids think about mathematics differently. I love being an advisor, and I deeply love and care for my advisees (even though, yes, I often fantasize about choking and hugging them at the same time). Amazing human beings walk the halls of our school. I need to be a part of that. I won’t give up on that.
So anger wasn’t working. The system isn’t changing any time soon. I was barking up the wrong tree and emptying my self. No bueno.
And that’s when someone said it: “Fierce Grace! When are you going to realize that your love and kindness and compassion are enough?” And I was confronted once again with my worry appearing weak or what people would think of me. At first, my internal response was “f people.” But now, I see that the people that view kindness as weakness only deserve more kindness and compassion. What a sad worldview! What a sad way to live life! I’ve had people assume that I want something from them or that I’m coming on to them, but geez, people, it’s called being kind and supporting your world. Anywho, this revelation changed my perception. Kindness and compassion only grow when you give it and it never leaves me feeling empty. The people in charge (::cough:: I call them the “Suits” ::cough::) are in a hard spot too, and hating on them and embarrassing them only brings me down to that same, emptying place. But having compassion for their situation and still maintaining the love for education and my students do not need to be at odds with each other. Being an educator means I need to work within while continuously pushing the pre-constructed walls while I carefully construct another world where anything is possible with my students and colleagues.
Don’t worry … I still get to be completely badass. (Haha) Radical compassion requires fierce gentleness and loving with all of all my might.
Sometimes often radical compassion requires you to feel that gut wrenching pain, but kindness never leaves me empty. Perpetual heart break means I’m open to all possibilities. It’s not about the ends. It’s all about the means.
I’m still working this all out. But for now, I am continuing to live by and through: Give freely. Expect nothing.
Two hours ago, the awesome Stephanie from Rawpothecary (check them out!) hand-delivered fresh and delicious blends for my five day cleanse. The time feels right for another cleanse.
My physical body is stronger than ever. I have the most amazing people in my life. My world is still shifting, but I am comfortable with the chaos. My new ink is a constant reminder to not be afraid of who I am. I thoroughly enjoy trying new things and reorganizing my patterns of habit. I am ready to cleanse, again.
As I greeted Stephanie, I realized how utterly psyched I am for this cleanse. I am happily dancing around the apartment as I clean and ready the outward physical home as I prepare to clean and ready the inward home. Let’s go.
Cleanse intention: Consume less. Give more.
Tons of love, g
I’ll admit it - I had the crankiness this weekend. It started on Friday out of no where. Everything I did got a self-deprecating comment from my mind. Everything everyone said, I rolled my eyes at. I didn’t crack a smile. All day Friday, I was locked in the basement grading Regents with people who have pretty bad taste in music (the decision to switch to Radiohead was a godsend! But I found myself wishing for variety). (Evidence A of crankiness: my complaints.) Two amazing friends romped around Union Square with me, but I still was lethargic.
I went to my fav yoga class on Saturday in hopes of dispelling the crankiness. It didn’t work… well, at least not at first. Instead, it made me angrier.
My yoga teacher appeared to keep giving me strange looks. During my second sun salutation, I rolled my eyes at my teacher as I moved from upward dog to downward dog. As I jumped back into forward bend, I thought, “Shit. This is no bueno. Go away cranky pants.”
While in trikonasana (triangle pose), my teacher came up behind me and firmly, yet gently whispered, “Breathe, Grace.”
My ego totally lost it.Me? You’re telling me to breathe?Take a look at Mr. New over there: his shoulders are caving in. I even nudged my head in the poor new student’s direction.
This amazing yoga teacher didn’t flinch at my anger. Instead she told me, “Breathe. I’m just telling you what my teacher told me. Breathe, Grace.”
For measure, I inhaled and exhaled loudly through my nose, and ignored the teacher the rest of the class. See, I told you, total crankiness. I went through the weekend and another yoga class with it too.
Riding the train home today, a wave of crankiness hit me again. And I began cursing my self out.WTF, Grace?
And then I heard her loud and clear. “Breathe, Grace.”
(Side note: I swear I don’t hear voices…often. Ha!)
This time, it hit home. I breathed in deeply through my nose, held my breath at its peak, and released it purposefully and fully. My world changed in a second.I did it again. And again.
My yoga teacher was right. I needed to breathe. Now of course I was breathing this whole weekend and during my yoga practices, but was I breathing fully? was I breathing consciously? Nope. I’m not sure what caused me to forget to breathe purposefully. It just kind of faded in the realm of stress and some unsettling feelings of no longer being exclusively independent anymore. It just happened.
Tonight I stepped onto my mat, breathing consciously and fully. My heart still aches and my brain is still running five miles a minute, but I’m breathing it all in, and letting it out. What an incredible difference!
I guess this is just a long post to remind myself and anyone reading to relax into breathing. Let your breath massage your body and your thoughts. Breathe in gratitude, breathe out humility.
"Our breath is constantly rising and falling, ebbing and flowing, entering and leaving our bodies. Full body breathing is an extraordinary symphony of both powerful and subtle movements that massage our internal organs, oscillate our joints, and alternately tone and release all the muscles in the body. It is a full participation in life." -Donna Farhi
So it’s been a week and a half since I completed my juice cleanse. Today was the first day I saw amazing colleagues and amazing students in over three weeks. I was amazed at responses today. I know that I feel healthy, light, and energetic inside, but today affirmed that people see itoutsidetoo.
Here are some reactions (they didn’t know I did my juice cleanse):
"You look healthy. Clearly the break did you well."
"You look different. Your hair is the same color. I’ve seen that shirt before. What is going on?"
"Ms. O’Keeffe. Your skin is like glowing. Have you been eating even more vegetables than normal?"
Kind of cool. Feeling fantastic. :)
Affection is only one ingredient of love. To truly love we must learn to mix various ingredients—care, affection, recognition, respect, commitment, and trust, as well as honest and open communication. […]
Most of us learn to think of love as a feeling. When we feel deeply drawn to someone, we cathect with them; that is, we invest feelings or emotion in them. That process of investment wherein a loved one becomes important to us is called “cathexis.” In his book* [M. Scott] Peck rightly emphasizes that most of us “confuse cathecting with loving.” We all know how often individuals feeling connected to someone through the process of cathecting insist that they love the other person even if they are hurting or neglecting them. Since their feeling is that of cathexis, they insist what they feel is love.
When we understand love as the will to nurture our own and another’s spiritual growth, it becomes clear that we cannot claim to love if we are hurtful and abusive. Love and abuse can not coexist. Abuse and neglect are, by definition, the opposite of nurturance and care.
I’m drinking my final juice of my official juice cleanse! I am proud of my strength and my body and what they can do. Was it sometimes hard? Of course, but this feeling of a fresh start is amazing!! Tomorrow I’ll post more about the overall lessons learned from my juice cleanse, but for now, here are some lessons/annoying things from the day…
Lesson #1: There is a difference between just saying something and activelydoing what you are saying.
My roommate and I checked out a new yoga studio today. We bought a Groupon and it’s only a couple of stops away on the G train so we figured, “Why not?”
We will not be going back. It boils down to simply saying all the things you think people want to hear and actually being that way. In fact saying something comforting (like “Everyone is at there own level.”) but not actually supporting people ismanipulative. Even in my own teaching practice, I have said things to students that I knew would influence their immediate decisions (words like “sweetie” or “do me a favor, honey” or even compliments). They are manipulative and authoritarian. I try to avoid these words because they completely and unfairly disarm students and this makes me sick to my stomach. I agonize over these manipulative moments in my own practice. Sometimes I’ve had manipulate a situation for what I thought was the better of other students (fights, disruptive behavior, lateness), but they always leave me with this utter distaste in my mouth. I abhor being manipulated. I hate manipulating people. I cannot stand the cycle of manipulation it creates.
In the very beginning of class, the teacher calmly stated, “Don’t do anything you aren’t comfortable doing.” Cool, got it. Then five minutes later, we start our “Om Shanti”s. I love chanting. It clears my head before practice and sets me up to enter the world again. My roommate couldn’t care less for chanting. We tease each other about it. Anyway, back to chanting: I peaked open an eye while chanting to get a sense for the teacher’s style. To my surprise, the teacher was glaring at someone. I followed her gaze … my roommate!! What? So what she’s not chanting! Grow up! My inner activist brought out a soapbox and a megaphone. I will not have this. I loudly cleared my throat, waited for the teacher to look at me, and abruptly stopped chanting. She widened her eyes, quickly shut them, and chanted louder. I could make a list of things that happened, but that would ruin my mood. And I’ve had a good day!
In short, this studio wanted to make you believe that they were supporting you or that they weren’t elitist, but really they are. Their words only go so far … and their actions spoke volumes.
Then I thought about my own life. What do I say, but don’t do? This could be another list. Thank you juice cleanse for giving me the mental clarity to decipher the manipulation clearly and then pulling up a mirror so I can take a good look at myself!!
Which leads me to the next lesson…
Lesson #2: I need to pick up that mirror of self-reflection more often. Working on this. I accept where I am with love. I don’t need to follow the same habits and pitfalls of the past. Right here, right now - I am changing.
"Awakening is not faith. Awakening doesn’t include any notion of getting to a higher level of existence. It is, in a way, becoming aware of something. Awakening is not by itself a rising to a new dimension, but being aware that something is different. " —Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz
Though physical in nature, this juice cleanse has made me aware of truths that have been brewing inside me. I see and acknowledge the strength within myself.
As Rabbi Steinsaltz noted, awakening is not about getting somewhere or doing something. Awakening is being aware, being mindful, taking note with love and acceptance. It is noticing “that something is different.”
Well, something is different. Now it’s time for me to take this mindfulness and put it to work. Like yesterday’s yoga class, I need to accept with love where I am, keep making mini-goals, and repeat acceptance with love.
Intention #1: Be supportive. Be kind. Shamecka is doing the juice cleanse today. The roles have reversed. I am now the one reminding her why she wanted to cleanse and supporting her decision.
Intention #2: Welcome everything. Smile. Breathe. Repeat.
Intention #3: Finish A Prayer for Owen Meany. I don’t know what it is about this book. I can’t get through it. Today, I will finish you and plan my next delicious read.
Inhale it all in, exhale out love. Love, g