Effort and Ease

If you’ve ever had a regular yoga class with experienced teachers, it’s likely that you’ve been instructed at some point to find some "ease within the effort,” to find places where you can soften or release while still doing the work of the posture, still maintaining focus and awareness. For example, if you are in virabhadrasana (warrior 1 pose), the posture may require effort to stay strong through the legs and shoulders, effort to remain in the correct alignment for your body, but there is no reason to clench the jaw or furrow the brows or press the tongue against the roof of the mouth and these are areas that can be released without interfering with the work of the pose.

I’ve been coming back to this idea a lot lately. If there was ever a yoga concept that felt applicable to day-to-day life, this is it, don’t you think? We all have our work, whether that be the work that pays our bills, the work of dealing with our emotional baggage so that we can move toward the best version of ourselves, the work of life minutia (the folding of laundry and the cooking of meals), the work of mending and sustaining relationships. How often do we make that work harder by the equivalent of clenching our jaws? How often do we bring unnecessary difficulty to this work? What small things can we release that would allow this work to have a bit more ease?

We head out of New England in a mere 9 days and I am writing this morning from Texas, where I’m spending a bit of time with my family before we head back out on the road. When I return home from this visit, I’ll have only four days to close out what I can of life there and pack up for the coming weeks of travel. I meant to get more done before I left. I meant to tie up some loose ends that I won’t have time to get to after all. There is a great deal to sort and organize before we drive away and it’s possible that I will need to put in a few late nights to pull it off. This is just fact, the work of living this way. But there can be greater ease within that work than I often allow. There is nothing gained by my getting snappish at Justin or getting caught up in some idea of perfection (I can be very guilty of needing things to be “just so” before moving on). There is nothing gained by frantically rushing about or needless stress. Yes, things must get done. But I don’t need to be a crazy person in order to do them, as it turns out. As a matter of fact, it could be strongly argued that they could be done with far more efficiency if I’m NOT a crazy person, actually.

As we go about daily life, it is fascinating to observe the ways that we bring unnecessary effort to our work. Preconceptions about someone’s response before we’ve even given them the opportunity to behave differently, the clinging to old ideas or identities that may or may not be true any longer, the stories we tell about relationships or tasks. Maybe folding laundry isn’t your favorite task ever, but is it made easier by repeating the phrase “I hate laundry” or is that something you can release? How about the way we brace ourselves for certain interactions? What happens when we soften those tensed shoulders and save our defensiveness for actual affront rather than anticipated, imaginary ones.

Where can we bring a bit more ease to our efforts? What can we release? Physically, emotionally, spiritually? As you make your way through this mid-week hump, give it a try…let’s see if we can bring a little less unnecessary work to our lives together and perhaps in doing so, make space for a little more focus, a little more joy.   

Happy Wednesday, friends!

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2017 In Pictures

I will warn you right out of the gates...this post is a beast! So. Many. Photos. But 2017 was a big year and these images still barely skim the surface. In a nutshell...

  • We visited 22 national parks and monuments (and a bunch more state parks, national forests, and wild and scenic rivers!)
  • We road-tripped a total of just over 12,000 miles (these are road-trip miles, not the miles put on in daily life or excursions made from where we were located at the time...our truck actually put on more than double that!)
  • We lived in 4 locations: Alna, Maine / New Braunfels, Texas / Reno, Nevada / Hollis, New Hampshire
  • We took just shy of 13 weeks of designated vacation time total, generally in three-week increments
  • We visited six whiskey/bourbon distilleries (and more micro-breweries than I could even begin to quantify...)
  • We spent more than 50 nights sleeping outdoors either in a tent or the back of the truck (the camper doesn't count and I stopped counting calendar dates when I hit 50...)
  • I guided close to forty whitewater trips down the Truckee River (with just the one "dump-truck" that ended my rafting season!)
  • I shot more than 25,000 images for myself and for clients

There are a million things I can't count...number of campfires sat around, wildlife seen in action, hours spent in the hammock, friends visited and made, belly laughs, wrong turns, gps failures, mountain lakes swam in, moments of awe, moments of growth, moments of clarity.  

This year was harder and better and fuller than I've had in longer than I can guess and I am deeply proud of what we've done with our time. As we begin winding up our time here in New Hampshire and prepare to head west in just a few short weeks to pick up the camper and begin the next year of adventure, it's been a gift to go back through these images and my journals from the year and to step back and process just a bit. I suspect that I will continue to process these experiences for years to come, but for this one moment, I'm simply going to revel in the reflection of this year in review.

 

Maine > Texas (mid-January through April)

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Pulling away from the Alna house...

In front of our wedding venue in Williamsburg, VA...

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Let the Kentucky distillery tours begin...

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Not every night is a scenic campsite...there were plenty of Wal-mart parking lot nights this year!

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New Braunfels, Texas...

One of the perks of being in Texas was getting some time with my family, especially some outside time with my little brother!

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Texas > Nevada (May through September)

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Driving out of Death Valley's 100-degree temps and into the high Sierra's freezing ones in the same day was mind-boggling...a 70-degree difference in a matter of hours!

My love for Reno began with the bulging snowmelt currents of the Truckee...

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California > Oregon > Washington (12 days in September)

Nevada > New Hampshire (October through January 2018)

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Once back in New England, it's been a whirlwind of client work that has taken me all over this region as well as to New Orleans combined with reuniting with friends and family we haven't seen in a year. Snow and walks in the town forest and laughter over dinners with friends. I haven't had my camera out for much of the personal stuff, but I can feel that itch beginning and you can bet you'll see a bit more before we leave this place in a few short weeks...

A safe and happy New Year to all of you. My gratitude for your presence here is unceasing. Onto 2018 we fly, my friends!

Arrived

We arrived in Reno last night after driving for hours with the jagged, snow-capped peaks of the eastern Sierra Nevada mountains hugging our left side. They are glorious things to behold, those mountains, and between that view and the sound of the Truckee River that I can hear from where I sit writing this morning, I have high hopes for our time tucked in here on the California-Nevada line.

We’ve been on the road for the last couple of weeks, wandering through wide open spaces devoid of much human noise. It’s been utterly lovely to have “No Service” show up on my phone when I reach for it automatically, a gentle reminder to put it down, to look out my window at that big sky, to engage in conversation or companionable silence without distraction. 

In several places along our drive, road signs admonished us to turn off our air conditioning lest we overheat and we realized just how long it had been since we’d rolled our windows down and thrown our arms out into the wind while sliding along two-lane highways at breakneck speeds. How many ways must I learn that insulated comfort is rarely the best path?

I shot hundreds of photos and I will share many of them here over the next few weeks. But I also put my camera down sometimes. There was a night in Big Bend when we’d gone out to photograph the stars in that dark sky where so little man-made light interferes, only to remember that we were mere days from the full-moon, it’s celestial light dimming the stars. So I packed up my camera and instead we stood still in the middle of the road, alone and silent. We looked out over a teeming desert landscape, glowing in the moonlight, and we listened. We heard no cars. Or trains. Or planes. We heard no sounds of man. But over the cicadas and nocturnal rustlings and mysterious tiny crunches, we heard the yipping of coyotes nearby and finally one long, lovely howl at that moon before the pack moved away. It was some time before we could stir from that magic and days before the awe of it faded. 

We are excited to investigate this new temporary home, to see what lies beyond the casino reputation, to cast for trout in this river and rest our cheeks against the ponderosa pines in these mountains. To redefine “home” once again and to do our work, the work of being here, the work of learning and growing and embracing transition and fleetingness.