Thursday, April 24, 2008

Yoga & Taxes

I've read articles before that relate yoga to practically anything. For example, the Yoga of Eating involves bringing mindfulness to the table, eating slowly, taking in with gratitude and purpose what you are eating as you are eating. Baron Baptiste talks in his Journey Into Power book how even weight lifting can be 'yoga" if it is done with the conscientiousness and purpose of letting go and breaking past your edge. So I've found myself relating yoga to different aspects of my life -- seeing the principles carry over into being patient with my children or continuing on with a project that I may not think I have the fortitude to finish.

Last Tuesday my son said according to his teacher, this was the "worst day of the year" for grown-ups. Ironically, it was also my 1/2 birthday, so my youngest daughter was at the same time asking how I was going to celebrate, if I was having a fun day, etc. We finally went to a tax accountant this year, so the bulk of the tax stress was gone because I'd already spent a few days buried at my desk, organizing all of our finances to the minutest detail. Then the dreaded news came of how much we owed and I let it sit until April 15th.

The envelopes were addressed and stamped -- all I had to do was write the checks. But for some reason, (maybe symbolic for my resistance to letting them get the money any earlier than absolutely necessary), I didn't even think of getting it to the post office until about 4:30 that day. My kids were fresh home from school. I should have been relaxing with them. I was finding snacks for them to eat, defending the cleanliness of our home as their backpacks barged in, and somehow remembered that the post office would be closing in less than a 1/2 hour.

I ran to my desk and wrote the checks -- trying to keep peace while my kids noticed I wasn't able to give them full attention. I stressed because I didn't even have time to figure our finances to see how we'd fare after sending all this money in (Property Taxes were due the week before, not to mention a crazy propane bill for $790 -- yikes!) I wasn't feeling calm by any means, and announced that I needed to run to the post office (15 minutes away). My barely 16 year old daughter said, "Oh, can I drive?" She has her permit and wants to drive with me any chance she can. I told her she could drive on the way back, but would have to ride along on the way there so I didn't have to think about how fast or slow or if we'd get there all right.

I usually like to get in the car, turn on talk radio and just zone out as I hear the radio people rant about whatever is wrong with the world. Why that's soothing for me, I'm not sure. But it helps my mind stop thinking about the here and now. When my daughter drives with me, she wants to hear her music, which is sometimes good, but isn't as soothing for me by any means. Call me old, but I'd rather hear Nora Jones or something mellow and predictable.

As we drove away with just minutes left before the post office closed, I was thinking that even though I'd eaten raw all day, I would DEFINITELY stop at the little market on the way home to buy some big organic chocolate bar or a Clif Builder Bar or maybe a bag of Paul Newman cookies or something to treat myself for all the stress I was feeling on this most awful day of the year. In my heart, I knew it wasn't really the most awful day, but after my son asked me if it were the worst day over and over and over, I started believing maybe he was right. I thought about how nice it would be to just march in that store and buy whatever I wanted to soothe my soul. Then I thought about all the other not-as-justified moments when I'd done the same. The pattern was to feel the stress and reward it or stamp it out with some food item that I wouldn't usually eat and would later regret -- not necessarily for guilt reasons, but for health problems that would come right back.

I took a step back and realized that I didn't need to medicate myself at the market. I could actually drive back home, enjoying the leisure of my daughter driving while I sat back, and be just fine. I could feel the calm of knowing the checks were in the mail and let it be. I could look around and find joy in my situation and surrounding instead of reacting to what had brought me to that stressful point. I could actually grow from this moment in time instead of falling back into a well worn pattern.

I did just that. We drove home in peace. We passed the market without any longing to go in and find some sweet treat that I'd earlier thought I "deserved." My husband doesn't like that word and I've learned to see why. It's a selfish word. I can see it's purpose in parenting, but not really for myself. I may choose to do something because it's worthwhile or important or even needed, but I don't know that I ever "deserve" something.

How is this yoga? I found a moment where I was at my edge of not knowing if I could keep going. I was uncomfortable and stressed at that edge and wanted to quit. Since I couldn't quit with the financial responsibilities, I thought I'd just quit with my health goals instead. I would have actually been punishing myself instead of rewarding myself. This isn't to say that I'll never eat a chocolate bar or any of that again. I'm sure I will. But it will be for less reactive reasons. Like in yoga practice, I was able to take my mind away from the situation, breathe a bit, see that I could continue on in the pose or situation and not give in to panic. I love that sense of inner control. That's more satisfying to me than anything. It just takes a little more work to get there.

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