Helping Your Friends and Family – The “Right” Way

I’m going a little off-brand today, though what I am about to discuss relates quite well to the concept of karma yoga. So, here we go.

This has been a weird few months in my life, starting with an unexpected but serious health event at the end of June, which coincided with a setback in the treatment of a long-term health issue, and then was followed by a broken foot (I’m now at week 6 of crutches), and a nice immune-system malfunction requiring antibiotics that make me sick. Getting old is a festival, but it sure beats the alternative. I know many others in my friend and colleague groups that have also been going through the hard stuff.

This has also been a pretty horrifying year on the world stage, and the U.S. has been a roiling mass of rage, entitlement, anger, and violence. That has produced a massive amount of sorrow and confusion for U.S. residents of all ages, as well as those watching from around the world.

So, I’m not alone in needing some extra help recently. But, asking for help is, for most of us, really hard. The individualism and belief in self-determination that characterizes the national culture has rendered many people almost incapable of asking for help. I see this in students who won’t go to counseling or tutoring (though I think more of the college generation are comfortable admitting they need emotional assistance than my generation is/was). I see this in friends who are in the sandwich generation managing the dual roles of parenting children and caring for parents, but not asking for support. I see this in colleagues going through serious health issues and trying not to do any less at work. And I see this in myself.

I’ve struggled mightily asking for help this summer. At home, I’ve been better with it. But, even there I tend to wait for my incredibly supportive spouse to come and say “do you need anything?” before I will ask (he understands because he is very unlikely to ever ask for help!). With friends and colleagues, it’s even worse. I’ve tried to miss as little work as possible, no matter how I feel. I’ve hauled myself up and down stairs lugging as much as I can on crutches because I don’t want to ask for assistance, and so on. All of this has made me think about how we offer and give help.

I think most of us have, at times, had a friend go through something – whether it is a surgery or a family crisis or an illness – and said “let me know if you need help.” We are sincere when we say it, but it puts all of the burden on the individual who is already dealing with something serious. It requires that the person suffering reach out to us and ask for the specific help needed, and that is not easy. And when there are others involved – if the person has a family or spouse somewhere in the vicinity – it may be even harder to ask for help from others without making the family members feel like they aren’t doing enough.

So, what is better? While I’m no expert – hence the “Right” in the title of this post – I think it’s better to offer specific help in ways that are more of an offer and less of a question. It’s better to offer help in a way that makes other people not feel that they are asking too much. It’s better to offer a level of help we can legitimately follow through on, because it’s really hard to get up your nerve to ask for help and get a no.

Instead of “Let me know if I can help,” maybe try:

  • I take my trash out to the curb/dumpster on Sundays. I’ll stop by and get yours around noon.
  • I go to the grocery store every Tuesday and drive by your place on my way back. I’ll text you on Monday to see what you need.
  • I’m making extras of casseroles for the freezer this month so I can use them over the holidays. I’m going to drop a few off.
  • I am headed to the laundry tomorrow after work. I’ll drop by and grab your stuff and bring it back ready for folding.
  • My teens could really use some experience with cleaning/yard work/pet care. Let me bring them over for an hour on Saturday afternoon. We’ll have coffee and they can get some stuff done.
  • I’ve been wanting to give that report/task a try. Let me do this one.
  • I know your spouse is making sure you get fed well, but I’m going to drop of dinner on Saturday so you can both take a break.
  • I’m going to get reiki on Saturday. I would love to go together, my treat!
  • I know you have to go to the X doctor on Wednesday and you should not have to do that alone. I’ll pick you up and we’ll go to lunch afterwards.

This kind of offering takes more work on the part of the giver. We have to think more about what the other might need. It requires us to be more authentic to ourselves and the other regarding what we are really willing/able to do. But, it takes the weight off of a friend, family member, or colleague who is already feeling burdenend, and that’s what we want to do in the first place.

Do you find asking for help a challenge? How about offering? What are your strategies for either one?

 

 

Yoga from the Third Eye Chakra: Or Trusting My Intuition

third-eye-chakraAs you have probably noticed, things have been pretty quiet around here. Over the last year, I was enmeshed in several projects on the work and home fronts that slowed down my blogging and refocused my attention. In the month of June, I spent a lot of time packing and preparing to end a job at a place I had worked for 18 years. And then on July 1, I started a new position that involves working away from home for much of the week. This has cut down on my cooking and, when I do cook (I batch cook on the weekends), I’m in a hurry to get it all done and don’t take pretty pictures. Eventually, I’ll probably post my batch cooking plans, but for now it’s been a bit of a drought of blogging.

To be honest, I don’t anticipate the blogging rate picking up much while I’m getting into the swing of a new job, but I thought I would share a little bit about where I am with my yoga practice at the moment.

With several health issues, including a major surgery, a severe infection (related to the major surgery), a fall down a flight of stairs resulting in a broken tailbone, and a plethora of RA flares, my practice really waned in the last two years. It never completely left, but it wasn’t very present either. As I relocated, and had a little space with no one in it but me and a cat, the possibility of leaving a yoga mat front and center at all times seemed to make it more possible to get in a regular practice.

Five plus weeks later, I find myself practicing at least 5 days a week, sometimes more, for at least 40 minutes a day. Whee! I started out doing a very traditional vinyasa/ashtanga surya namaskara a & b pattern, followed by a planned set of poses that I had often used in my vinyasa classes or been led through in classes I attended. After a week or so of this, I gradually let go more of that pattern and began to really tune in to what my body needed in any particular moment.

At this point, I’m calling this “intuition yoga” when I think about it. If I get on the mat and I need sun salutations to warm up the muscles and get the joints lubricated, that’s what I do. But, if my joints are very painful, I’ll opt for an easier flow followed by more static poses. If the front of my body feels really tight, I focus on opening it up. If I’ve accidentally slept on my back and wake up with horrible tailbone pain, I do very gradual standing forward folds that take the muscles surrounding that area to the edge and stretch them gently, but never move beyond. Because of the sacral pain, I’m rarely doing seated folds, even the ones I enjoy (like janu sirsasana) because I know my body will pay me back for that momentary pleasure with hours of spasms.

Doing yoga this way is working well for me right now. I have seen my practice change so much in the last 8+ years of serious yoga focus that I know it will likely shift again, but if feels good to know where I am and what is working for me and notice the positive impacts on my body and mind as I move through my day.

Do you follow your intuition in your practice, or are you more of a “by the book” kind of yogi right now?

 

Shopping for Vegan Yogis on Your List

So, you are shopping for a vegan, or a yogi, or a vegan yogi, and you are at a loss. I’ve got a few ideas that might help. I tried to list things from various price ranges, and only listed things that I personally own. I’ll attempt to pop back in and add more as I think of them. Items that were sent to me to review are so noted, but most of these were purchased at list price.

Yogi Surprise Boxes

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This company sent me their surprise boxes to review and I was impressed with how adorable they are, and what good selections were included. There are two options for the box. One contains more beauty, food, wellness, and yoga items. The other is jewelry. These would be great for someone you had no idea how to pick a gift for, but would likely not be appropriate for the male yogi in your life, as some of the beauty items seem to be slanted to women.

Right now, the Yogi Surprise boxes are 10% off. This makes the lifestyle box $39.46 and the jewelry box $22.49. The plan is monthly, but you can cancel at any time.

My Best Friend is a Bag Lindsey Bag

IMG_4005a IMG_4006a IMG_4011aIn the fall, I realized that I needed a black briefcase that was vegan friendly, laptop compatible, and looked professional. That’s not as easy as it sounds. Of course, I also wanted it to be pretty. After quite a bit of searching, I came across a company called My Best Friend is a Bag. While they are located in Australia, one of their bags, in two colors, is available on Amazon.com. So, I thought I should try it out!

The Lindsay bag is very pretty, easy to use, spacious enough for every day, and feels like a bag that will last. I took the tassel off of mine because the cats kept pulling over the bag and it was a little big for me. Upon first use, the side magnets didn’t want to hold things closed with the pockets full, but as I’ve used it more and the magnet flaps have loosened, it’s all good!

Not only is the bag pretty and functional, the customer service of MBFiaB is wonderful! I contacted the company because I lost the snap on key fob on my first business trip after receipt (I turned it in with my rental car, DOH!), to see if I could purchase another one. While they didn’t have any to sell, the owner assured me that, when they had a bag return, she would have the key fob sent to me for now charge. Sure enough, she did, and I got it just this week. Very nice! I’m thinking I may also need the red one!

Borsa Bella Bags

I have told you about Borsa Bella Bags before, but let me do it again! This company makes the most adorable fabric bags of all sizes and types. I have a particular weakness for the phone bags and the Catch All bags. If you look at the image taken above of the Lindsay bag, you will see a long zip phone bag and a catch all bag tucked inside!

At the moment, there is even a special going on for the Catch All bags. You need to get some for you and your friends and family for makeup, gadgets, and general stuff!

 

 

 

 

 

Crazy Rumors Lip Balm

It can be a little challenging to find vegan lip balm, but Crazy Rumors has you covered, even for funky flavors and tinted balms. They have some fun flavors/scents for the holidays, as well.

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Thug Kitchen

Like food? Like the earth? Like your health? Like funny? Not afraid of a little (or a bunch of) profanity? This might be the cookbook for you!

Thug Kitchen is one of the few cookbooks that have ever made me laugh out loud, and I spent an afternoon following my spouse around the house reading him selections. He was thrilled, or… something. The recipes aren’t all super simple, but they don’t involve particularly weird ingredients and those I have tried have been quite good.

Woodstock Farm Sanctuary

No,  you can’t buy the farm as a gift, but you could give a donation in someone’s name and help support the really important work that gets done at the farm. From now until the end of the month, all donations are matched dollar for dollar! Just head over to the Woodstock Farm Sanctuary website and make a donation. You should also look at all the pictures, while you are there, because pigs!

Queen Helene Bath Salts

Who doesn’t like a nice relaxing bath? Some lavender and patchouli bath salts add to the relaxation potential. These Queen Helene salts are vegan friendly and inexpensive. They would make a very nice little stocking stuffer gift!

Delicious Peanut Butters!!!

Peanut Butter & Company has some really delicious peanut butters that any peanut loving vegan would snarf right up. The Dark Chocolate Dreams version is so crazy good that I may (did) eat it with a spoon right out of the container. Oh my! You can check out all of their options at ilovepeanutbutter.com. Not all of the version are totally vegan (some have honey), so do read ingredients before purchasing.