Strive to live the ordinary life in an extraordinary way. – Ralph Blum

Every time I left my mom, I knew it was another goodbye: a goodbye to her voice; a goodbye to hearing her say my name; a goodbye to her knowing who I was; a goodbye to her sweet hands; a goodbye to her gentle eyes. The last year of her short life was the hardest; she deteriorated faster and faster with early-onset Alzheimer’s. In a nursing home just a few minutes from where my sister lived, we’d sit for long periods, and if it were a good day, we’d bring her to my sister’s home to sit with us there. Even without much left to do and regardless of activity, it’s those times I savor 20 plus years later. My mother mostly ate ice cream in her last year of life. We didn’t question its absurdity; it was all about what she enjoyed, so we kept that going. The ice cream running down her parched throat must have felt divine; her face lit up in the way you’d expect a divine face to look. Her illumination was enough to ignite my heart, my oh-so-growing heart, a lesson of beginning to know unconditional love.

To stay present in everyday life, it helps to be deeply rooted within yourself; otherwise, the mind, which has incredible momentum, will drag you along like a wild river. – Eckhart Tolle

This story is one of many that changed the trajectory of my life. Those gut-wrenching, sad, and fragile moments heightened my appreciation for everything I had. Because of those drawn-out, simple-turned-sacred acts, my ability to sit at a Peet’s and hold a perfectly fresh cup of coffee became a gift instead of routine. Having a fun conversation with a friend while we both giggled loudly became a sweet song of gratitude that filled my being. Passing the time reading a book or walking on a trail with the sun in my face became a blessing I no longer took for granted. Four years of mom and I living our mother-daughter relationship in this way unfolded within me the extraordinary in the ordinary – after all, isn’t it ALL special? 

How much longer will you go on letting your energy sleep? How much longer are you going to stay oblivious of the immensity of yourself? – Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh

Santa Clara County reopened to full capacity for most businesses on June 15, after a 15-month closure. Shelter-in-place was a “place” that took both our luxuries and our necessities, a place that ripped up our routines, tore open our vulnerabilities, and filled us with uncertainty and anxiety. There was no choice but to surrender and either fight this inevitable wave of the pandemic that we were deeply immersed in or accept the situation and stay afloat to carve out new adventures, opportunities, perspectives we’ve never seen before. I think most of us did both, frankly.

There is little sense in attempting to change external conditions, you must first change inner beliefs, then other conditions will change accordingly. – Brian Adams

Now that we’re back open, I can tell you from the experience of my dying mom that you can forget everything you came in “sacred” touch with if you don’t encourage yourself to remember. I recall wanting this heart-breaking journey I was on with my mom to end, but I realized that the end meant she would no longer be here – how selfish and devastating to even think such a thought. Seeing the shape she was in, there were days I couldn’t breathe. It was a no-win situation that I showed up to, and despite my anguish, and though she did pass, I decided my new set of eyes and ears weren’t going to leave me too. I knew that I had to take steps to keep the gratitude I experienced so profoundly and exercise it daily. The result is a life that continues to pull at you, to do this or be that. But it’s a life of stability rooted in peace, recognizing that ALL is to be appreciated, even the hardest of challenges. 

Like heroes in a mythic journey, we are meant to struggle to make the right choices. – Caroline Myss

Okay, post-pandemic beings, I challenge you to take steps to keep some of those precious ordinary routines you enjoyed during shelter-in-place. Build them into your life now, amongst the abundance of freedom you get to have again. Bake; walk in nature; get up early and read something inspirational; keep that game night with your family; sit and simmer longer to watch people from a park bench, and do yoga.  

I discovered yoga when my mom passed away. It helped me with grief, confusion, abandonment, anger, and all the unsorted emotions that come with the decline and death of a loved one. Plain and simple, it’s loss I dealt with, and it’s loss that many of you have experienced during Covid times. I’m sure many of you felt confusion, anger, anxiety, and other emotions that arise from being struck with the unexpected. Yoga brought me out of my mental despair by being tuned in to my body, pouring energy into the task at hand; I was paying attention and becoming present. In so doing, I loosened the stronghold of fear, concern, and worry, which allowed more space for appreciation, joy, and freedom, if only for a little bit. While yoga gave me so much, my biggest “why I do yoga” reason was that more yoga meant exercising more muscle in the realm of gratitude, something I so desperately did not want to lose. 

It’s much easier to fall into old habits than to take the time to establish new ones. But once they are established, they’re established. And then they replace and become as constant as the old ones. – Geneen Roth

Have you never done yoga? Have you not practiced in over 16 months? Have you managed to show up but are having a hard time? Start, start again, and always start where you are. Do your yoga and be okay with experiencing a threshold of struggle that you know you’ll get through. As you build your confidence, use your body to challenge your mind to concentrate on one point, quieting the noise that has weakened your spirit. Breathe into areas of resistance, making space for more ease and less tension.

If all you can do is crawl, start crawling. – Rumi

Yoga WILL invite you to remember who you are. It gives you that nudge to bake, take a walk or read a book, to slow down to a pace that still keeps you active, passionate, and moving forward. Yoga will invite you to be fully present and appreciative of all your daily activities like washing the dishes, helping kids with homework, moving through heavy traffic, and feeling childlike excitement when eating ice cream. These ordinary acts can become special, sacred gifts to you every day! Like me, 20 years from now, you might look back knowing you deliberately exercised gratitude which in turn gave you a more fulfilling life and made you a better person.

Another problem with the idea of self-improvement is that it implies there is something wrong with who we are. Everyone wants to be someone else, but getting to know and love yourself means accepting who you are, complete with your inadequacies and irrationalities. – Thomas Moore