Zen & the Midterm

It’s midterms weekend and like in the previous quarter, I find myself in the library trying to finish up my reviewer before I start the test. This week is filled with anxiety for the whole class, and I am not spared from this feeling. I, too, feel anxious about the test itself, but I was able to successfully employ a few tactics to manage this stress. I am much more calmer, alert and ready to take on this test.

Today I made time for yoga despite the yoga studio being out of the way from my routine earlier. An hour and a half is that in-between time that is not sufficient to start a camp in the library, but at the same time, every time I get to study for this test is precious and I did not want to waste that on waiting before yoga class. I went to church in River North, and since I had an hour and a half of free time after church and before my yoga class, I headed back to Lincoln Park where the gym is located and stayed at the coffee shop next door to do 1.5 hours worth of reading. Even if I spent money on expensive coffee and only staying there an hour (I don’t mind spending on great coffee especially if I camp out in the cafe for more than 2 hours), I think it the time and money invested was all well spent. I was able to focus and digest what I was reading. Caffeine must’ve helped, along with my determination to go through my notes in under two hours.

Following that coffee break, I went to yoga class. The 4 pm yoga class at Equinox-Lincoln Park is a new addition which I gladly welcomed, especially since it accommodates busy Sundays when I couldn’t make it to the morning yoga classes. The instructor was especially fantastic, who really helped us push our practice by challenging us to make small tweaks to regular poses. We didn’t learn a new pose but I felt that we improved on the poses that we do know already. After the class, I felt a sense of focus, calmness and strength that I felt cannot be shaken. Breathing, striving to get a challenging pose right, patience, approaching this with ease, and quieting the mind all help bring about this calmness.

The main thing I learned in today’s yoga class is: Allowing ourselves to let go of negative things, things that does not serve us and that add to our burden, on the mat. As we awoken from shavasana, we can leave all negative things on the mat and begin the remainder of the day with renewed spirit. What a powerful message.

She shared with us this quote:

“Man, because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then he dies having never really lived.”

She encouraged us to create space for mental, spiritual and physical nourishment through our practice. It is true that amid hectic schedules and urgent deadlines, an hour’s worth of yoga helps me make it a point to save some time for myself too, and it’s an activity that doesn’t only help me take a break but also inspires me to slow down and live in the present.

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Wintry Mix

When I went online to check the weather last week, the forecast said “wintry mix.” In another situation outside of a weather forecast, this would’ve sounded like a seasonal genre of music. But in the context of weather, this means: rain, snow, sleet. All the chilly winter elements combined in one convenient pour.

Much like the external factors what we have had to weather lately here in Chicago, I also need to juggle another kind of mix this winter: school, work and personal life. The classes I’m taking this quarter require an intense commitment in terms of the amount of reading and individual studying we have to do each week. Not to mention all the tasks I need to do at work, which are ongoing. The time I would devote to work outside of work hours are now split between school and work. Oh, and I also need to make room for my personal life.

I long for the weekends, because it’s a time when I get to have more control over my time. Daytime hours are spent at work and at cafes or libraries for school work during the night. The amount of work required means I never get to see the bottom of the pile, only see glimpses of the elusive end. I don’t mind studying since I love it, but there has got to be a way to manage stress better.