Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Treasures That Lie Within Us

"Set your life on fire. Seek those who fan your flames."
                                                              - Rumi

Have you ever pondered on the question, “If your house was on fire, and you had time to grab one thing, what would it be?”  I will admit the last time I thought about this was when it was brought up by the handsome Matthew Goode in the movie Leap Year.  I’m thinking about this right now because I’m sitting in my room staring at nothing trying to get myself motivated to clean it.  As I scan the room I realize and can finally admit to myself something my family has been trying to tell me for years. I have Way. Too. Much. Stuff!  So I thought about it.  What would I take if my house was on fire?  Assuming all living beings were out safely, here is the sad list of things I was trying to choose from. 
First came my guitar. But which one? I have four.  And then what about my ukuleles? Well I can always buy a new guitar and that was too confusing, so I went onto the next thing - my record player.  It's not an antique.  I think my parents bought it at Kmart or something, so I can always replace that too. Scratch that off the list.  Then my eyes scanned to my beautiful new Tibetan singing bowl my boyfriend got me for Christmas. Uhhh, I'd just have him buy me another one too. This was when I started scaring myself with my absurd ideas of what things are important to me: my CD and DVD collection, my library of books (half of which I haven't even read), my dozens of pictures on my walls. Oh my pictures. They're mostly digital so I can just print them out again.  But that would mean I would have to take the computer! On to the next: my Beatles blanket (you know, so I wouldn't be cold standing outside watching my house burn).  What about my pillow?  Yes, I thought about my pillow just for a second, and its sweet perfection between softness and firmness. I went through countless other things like my National Geographic Magazine collection and my two trunks full of souvenirs and memories, including old middle school notes, when I finally decided I would try with all my might to push my Grandfather's piano out of the burning house. 
After this mind fiasco, I meditated on the outcome and came to a conclusion I've always feared to admit.  I, Lauren Madrigal, am a material girl.  As hard as I try to be happy with everything I already have, I still go out shopping every week to buy new things. My drawers and closet can barely hold anymore wardrobe, yet I continue to complain I have nothing to wear.  Whenever I travel anywhere outside my 50 mile radius, I feel the need to bring a souvenir home and find room for it on my cluttered dresser and shelves.     I have an overflowing collection of piano music because I find it sacrilegious to throw sheet music away.  I picked up a new hobby painting wine bottles and now there are ten empty ones sitting on my bedroom floor waiting to be painted. Don't even let me get started on the trunk of my car.   
So what do I do?  How do I fix this?  First, I will listen to one of my favorite Jack Johnson songs, Gone, and truly take in the lyrics this time: "Look at all those fancy clothes, but these can keep us warm just like those. And what about your soul? Is it cold? Is it straight from the mold and ready to be sold? Cars and phones and diamond rings, bling bling. Those are only removable things. What about your mind? Does it shine? Are there things that concern you more than your time?" 
OK now that that's done, I will make a change.  I'm remembering back on a yoga class many months ago which was based around letting go.  My wonderful instructor explained to us the importance of letting go of materials, decluttering our lives to help declutter our minds.  However, I never truly acted on this message.  This week, I plan to change that. I will be patient with it, because after all, this is a lifestyle change we are talking about. 
Now that my rant is complete, I finally know what I would take if my house was burning to the ground.  I had to sit and think about it for a while, contemplating on what I have that cannot be bought or replaced. The only thing I found was a picture.  A picture I have framed on my dresser of me when I was young sitting on my brother Christopher's lap. I was only able to share my life here on earth with Chris for ten years and I want that picture for the rest of my time here without him. It can't be replaced or bought.  Just looking at it made me realize how much treasure hunting I need to do.  But I'm not planning on looking anywhere other than within myself. That way, nothing can destroy them.  Those kinds treasures cannot be burnt in a fire. They are the only ones worth searching for. 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

 The Legend of the New Year's Resolution

"Practice patience; it is the essence of praise. Have patience, for that is true worship. No other worship is worth as much. Have patience; patience is the key to all relief."

                                          - Rumi

        Have you ever been to the gym on January 1st and had to wait in a line to use one of the 15 treadmills which are normally free?  Or maybe you've been grocery shopping on that same day and are determined to skip the junk food and candy aisles because "it's a new year!"  Well, I can guarantee you that by February 1st all those treadmills will be free again and everyone's grocery carts will contain just as many bags of chips and boxes of cookies as they did the previous December. Why is this?  Why do New Year's resolutions always seem to, how we say, "fail"?  
        Resolutions almost always have to do with breaking some kind of bad habit, the top one being unhealthy lifestyles like poor eating habits, lack of exercise, and too much drinking and smoking.  We should know by now that these and every other kind of bad habit cannot be broken by wishing upon on a star before bed.  Nevertheless, every New Year's Eve, we do just that and we honestly believe that by February 1st we will be "20 pounds lighter". 
        The reason why I'm revolving this post around the popular declaration to "lose weight" is because that had been my New Year's resolution every year from the time I started making them.  Why did I have to keep making the same resolution?  I will tell you why.  And surprise, surprise - It's because I never followed through.  When I wasn't 20 pounds lighter by February 1st I thought I had failed and for some reason, we as humans, feel that once we fail, we need to punish ourselves. Once I punished myself for failing, the motivation I had to break my bad habits was gone.  I had no self-love; no self-respect.  I had no confidence in myself that I could do it.  
         In December of 2011 I began to make the same preparations I made every year.  However, this time I felt different.  That year I had increased my yoga practice.  The best way to begin a yoga practice is to sit in silence, drop all thoughts and worries, and focus in on one of the most important sounds on this busy earth - the peaceful sound of your very own breath.  Listening to your breath, feeling how it moves through your body, can teach you so many things.  That year it bestowed in me the number one key I needed to succeed.  
         I, like every one of you, was born with what I like to call the "anti-virtue" of impatience.  As infants, when we were hungry, we cried until we were fed.  As children, we pouted and threw temper tantrums when we didn't get the toy we wanted.  In our adolescence, we literally thought the world was ending when our parents said "no."  As adults, however, we begin to understand what we're lacking but sometimes can't put a finger on what that really is. When I began to truly listen to my breath, I figured it out.  It's patience.  The greatest healing power in the universe is time. Once we accept the undeniable beauty of patience, anything is possible. 
        On January 3, 2012, I packed up my patience, tossed away my pride and joined Weight Watchers.  With their incredible support along with my new found endurance, I felt invincible.  I would never go on another "diet" again, but I would change my lifestyle no matter how long it took.  Whenever I felt failure coming, like when I would gain weight one week instead of losing it, I refused to punish myself.  When I got stuck in a rut all summer and gained some of the weight back, I didn't wait for the New Year to start all over again.  Once again, I didn't punish myself.  I worked my way out of it right then and there.  I didn't lose 20 pounds by February 1st.  I did, however, lose 20 pounds by June 1st. 
       I am now 25 pounds lighter than I was exactly a year ago today.  Even though I'm not at my weight goal yet, I don't feel discouraged in any way and I have patience to thank for that.  My advice to everyone is to, before you make your New Year's resolution or even if you've already made it, find your patience.  Set aside time during your busy schedule for yourself.  Wake up earlier if you have to or wait until the children go to sleep.  Sit alone in silence and listen to your breath.  That is patience, and once you are filled with it, you can accomplish anything!