Friday, July 30, 2010

3 Breaths

Recently I had a friend comment that she was going to start weeding out some friendships that she felt were unhealthy or bringing her down. Why is it women tend to feel that we should keep on plugging away at relationships that harm our spirits? For me this is a tough one because I am a connector... I love writing letters (the real kind that require stamps, on beautiful stationary or a lovely card), emailing a newsy note to a friend, texting just to "check in" or even calling a friend I haven't spoken with in ages for no reason at all but to just tell them how much I value them. 

Boulder sky, like a living breath
The best lessons I've learned about friendship, is that you have to be a friend to keep one. I've tried to keep friendships alive, probably longer than I should have, where I thought I really connected with the person. But, for whatever reason, they don't call, or even return my calls. I've even been guilty of doing that to someone else. For whatever reason, we're all so busy these days.... Are we all so over scheduled trying to fill our need for love and connection through activities that we miss out on some real, genuine relationships? The funny thing about being busy is that often people think I am so busy that I don't have time for them. (See blog earlier this week on how I cut 7 classes-- I'm hoping I will improve and no longer give off the, I'm so busy vibe.)

Here's something that's helped me lately sort out the importance of relationships in my life:
Can I love and respect that person as they are?
Can that person help me on my journey of growth and change?
Can I help them?
Do I want to?

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of taking Sadie Nardini's master class on her take on core yoga. I'm not at all sure I walked away with her intention of learning more about my core... however, a few subtle comments she said hit me hard enough to call a friend afterward and tell them it was "one of the best damn classes I've had in a while!" (And, if you know me, I don't use explicatives! So it must have been good! )

I've heard it before, but this time, this time I really heard it to mean something deeper when Sadie said: hold a pose 3 breathes longer than you want to. This week, I'm applying that "breathe 3" mentality to everything I'm doing, not just postures. "Boys, (3 breaths), please don't play ninja in the house." Adho Mukha Vrksasana (3 extra breaths). In my own marriage and friendships (3 breaths) then answering the questions above. 3 breaths more. 

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Comparison

Recently read an interview with Courtney Cox about her coming to terms with her age. (I can hear what you're thinking, but what can I say? In college I had all the Friend's and Seinfeld episodes recorded on VHS, and we watched those episodes until the tapes nearly feel apart... back in the day before DVR!). She's 46, does Botox and is a movie-star but still... we're all human, right?
She said, "I'm at peace with myself and where I am. In the past, I was always looking to see how everybody else was doing. I wasn't competitive-- I was comparative. I just wanted to be where everybody else was. Now I've gotten to an age when I'm comparing anymore." I don't see learning that lesson, as a matter of age... more of a mind-set. (Although, the older we get, we tend to either become more hardened or softened by life, don't we?) In class, I'll encourage students to let go of judgment, competition, etc. But really, it's not so much a competition in most cases (wanting to be better than the person on the mat next to you)... it's just that you don't want to look "so foolish"... "so inflexible compared to the person on my right"... we all just want to fit in, don't we? Just trying to keeping up can be draining. And, in class, it can be harmful to our mind and body. 
city centre yoga instructors- so wonderful that we're all uniquely different

No one. No one will leave their mats after practice and say, "wow, that Sally, she's so stiff!" No one will remember what you did on the mat... only YOU. When I practice, I have to choose to recall the sensations of my body rather than what the poses looked like or didn't look like. How did it feel to reach a little further, breathe deeper, release my tight hips, and surrender in savasana? I want that. I want the whole experience. And, when I'm busy being comparative, I miss the grace and joy that can come out practicing without examining my abilities against someone else. 

Monday, July 26, 2010

Breaking Free

eka pada bakasana

“I see my path, but I don’t know where it leads. Not knowing where I’m going is what inspires me to travel it.”
―Rosalia de Castro

Friday morning, I went into my closet to find a few quiet moments. I sat down, took 2 cleansing, refreshing, deep belly breathes, then.... "Mom! I need help with the cereal. Mom, help me find.... please wipe my...!"  Morning mediation consisted of 2 breaths.  A friend emailed me yesterday, "I need to devote more time to me and spirituality. I get caught up in the day to day routine and can't seem to break free."  Breaking free of our samskaras (patterns of the past or old way of thinking) is just plain hard sometimes. Just look at the hundreds of thousands of books there are on the topic that are all best sellers. We all want to know how we can live more fully, balance our lives with happiness, more fulfillment. We go looking anywhere, and everywhere that's quick. Anything worth anything takes time, practice, and patience. If it could happen overnight, everyone would be writing a book!
Breaking free from those patterns is a walk of faith. My schedule and life is evolving. I recently cut 7 classes from my weekly teachings in order to be closer to my kids and home during the weekdays. I had a bit of withdrawal last week. But, this week is a full week of classes. Next week... off on a new adventure: training in California. I'll be working with Planet Yoga as a mentor. What I'm most excited about is how the vision of PY aligns so well with exactly what it should: Yoga. Community. Passion. Gratitude. Mentorship. Svadhyaya (inner study). Stay tuned... I'm not sure where all of this is taking me but have such a peace about the journey itself and who's going along for the ride.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Interruptions

"Perception does not shape your life; it is your life. I am creating my own environment. Minute by minute, we all shape our internal environment, and from that comes the happiness or suffering of our lives. Using self-empathy and then empathy for the other allows us to hear their words not as rudeness but as an exchange we can enjoy." -Judith Lasater

Interruptions are the stop of continuous forward movement. Technology is a thief of time and a source of those interruptions. Why is it that we are so programed to reply to that little ding! New message... new mail... text... how driven are we by social media that it's our own personal addiction. As soon as I start setting limits, something will come up where I need to be reachable (for my family or for work). My father is frequently agitated he can't reach me because my phone is always on silent. Why do we have to be so reachable at all times, all day, every day? Just this morning, I counted several dozen interruptions in my routine within 4 hours... from phone calls, emails, texts, kids, meal fixin, doorbell, .... the list goes on.
Ding! Another email! (Ok, I know, I know. I can turn off the ding... but what if... I miss something... Sigh, that's another blog topic: Equanimity...who takes refuge in silence (wherever he may be), who is content (no matter what occurs), those whose home is everywhere, whose mind is always steady, and whose heart if full of devotion. (Bhagavad Gita, 12.19))
Children are usually a source of happy interruption during my day. I love it when son #1 comes up and says, "Mom, I'm starving! What can I eat?" Son #2, "Mom, let's go see the ducks outside"... or my favorite, an unexpected cuddle or hug by either boy. All good things, and thankfully I can fully participate, most of the time, anyway.
However, I'm not always thrilled by interruption, the halt of progress (there goes my fire-pita nature again!). When it happens, I have to choose to hear it as their eagerness or joy for whatever it is that that person is sharing with me. I have to choose how I perceive the interruption.


Monday, July 19, 2010

Yoga is More

I just got an email from a friend's studio who's theme this month is the teaching of what yoga is. What is yoga? Seems like that's been a teaching that I've had repeatedly this past few months. Forcing me to define it and redefine it. And really reflect. One student said she went to a class and the (well known and respected) instructor said, "Yoga is just stretching"... she was quite upset by the comment (although, I do think it was said with a little tongue in cheek. I hope!). She insisted to me that it's more to her... it's more, isn't it, Melissa?! It's more to me.
Then, coincidentally, a student yesterday, asked me why she should take yoga. I answered the typical "helps create a sense of awareness, uniting the body, mind and spirit by keeping you in the present moment. For the body, it improves the breath, flexibility, and strength."
And, then she asked why do I do yoga... with a look that said, I really want to know.
Yoga is not just postures or stretching. Yoga helps you do anything better. It's like a really good book, one you can't wait to get back to. The more you get into it. The more it makes sense.
Once you begin to practice yoga and catch the bug of it... at first you're excited about what it does for your body. Soon after, when the practice causes you to think more about the rest of your life, the one outside of the yoga room, you realize it's something more. You're something more.
It's impossible to be upside down and not realize you're conquering your fears.... it's impossible to take those cleansing breaths in pranayama and not feel as if you are releasing the weight of the world... when you acknowledge that it's impossible to hold a negative and positive thought at the same time and the principles of the ahimsa (non-harming) take hold....and when you've had a moving practice that ends with a savasana that is so deep that instead of falling asleep from exhaustion, you begin to cry (and maybe don't even know why you're crying... could just be happy tears)... it just clicks.
Yoga is more. And you find the more through the experience of it, on and off the mat. (Yoga Sutra 1.7)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Destiny has infinite possibility.

Do you grow more and more in love with what you do? How do you rein-vision your dharma (life's passion) in such a way that it becomes not only become reality but is woven throughout your life? I'm fascinated by people, women in particular, that after mid-life (think Julia Childs, Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love...), are able to move beyond the drama of what has been their life and move into the "second act" of life. Inspiring stories are everywhere, and I believe there is one in all of us. Am I willing to have faith in my own abilities to look at what feels like very real obstacles and know that there is a way over, under, through, or even crush it?


You are what your deep, driving desire is.
As your desire is, so is your will.
As your will is, so is your deed.
As your deed is, so is your destiny.
Brihadaranyaka Upanishad


It is so much easier to take the path of least resistance rather than risk uncertainty or rejection. Not everyone loves what I do (hard to believe, I know! ; ), and it's easy to get discouraged by that one or two bits of negative feedback. Rather than dwelling and spending precious energy on the past, I can press on. I can reinvent. Understanding that this life moves faster than a wildfire going uphill, and I'm here to experience LIFE fully while I'm passing through.

Destiny has infinite possibility.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Wandering

I've begun doing word studies lately as themes for my class and to deepen my vocabulary and knowledge on a topic. I went to a class recently by Sybil at Flow in the Hood, that inspired me to continue with it. Her theme was "wandering" spirit. Wandering in German means "to change, like the wind". I focus so much on the "be here now", that I often forget that my mind and soul is also meant to give back to others, to explore and to be creative. If I only focus on my inner landscape and my own spiritual journey, I miss the longing of my soul to be a part of something greater than myself. Her thought was to stay present physically but allow my spirit, my soul to take a journey. How lovely, as I was in Hood River, to practice being in the body and yet, my mind took a trip to the river... around the mountains...walking up the hill to view the spectacular hood river valley, pink and blue sky, mountains and orchards. I dropped all my awareness of what everyone else was doing and took an adventure that I might not have otherwise taken. And, yet, I felt the pulse of the communal practice. The rhythm of unity that our movements had together. Gorgeous, just gorgeous.

"the wind blows wherever it pleases. you hear its sound, but you cannot tel where it comes from or where it is going. so it is with everyone born of the Spirit." john 3: 8

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Ridiculous

Andrew, my 4 yr old, asked me yesterday at supper what the word "ridiculous" means. I asked, as all good mother's do, where did you here that word? He replied, as all children usually do, I dunno (i don't know). Well, I said, it means silly or nutty; Something that's hard to believe. He thought that was so funny and began telling ME how riduculous I am! The mom in me replied, we don't tell adults theyare riduculous. And, yet I'm thinking, I wish sometimes I could!

Some days I just look at something I've done or that has been done to me, and think "that is riduculous!" In reality, which is where I try to live most days (although, not as fun as my pretend world where I have a tiara, a delicious latte in hand and solve the world's problems), don't we have these thoughts and don't say it? Sometimes my filter on my mouth is breaks, and I do say something quite ridiculous... and then, often, miraculously, my filter stays in place and I just smile...

One of the most beautiful lessons I've learned and continue to re-learn either in life, teaching yoga or parenting... is "wait, wait" (Chrys K. repeated "wait", ump-teen times in yoga therapy training... it's slowing sinking in.) Sometimes we jump ahead on our path of where we need to be to make something happen. Or even say or do something that appears ridiculous but yet took some courage to do. It's having that discernment to know when to act and when to wait, just wait.
“Life is all about timing...the unreachable becomes reachable, the unavailable become available, the unattainable...attainable. Have the patience, wait it out.”
― Stacey Charter

Monday, July 12, 2010

Blessing Circle

Home from Hood River, Oregon where my friend & mentor, Stephanie had a beautiful celebration of her life with her partner, Adi and their children & family. It was lovely and just perfect. In the morning, Marilee (who did the hood river training with me last August) and I lead a smallish yoga class for Adi, Stephanie and a few others. Forming a circle in Oak Grove park, we enjoyed a fun flow. An authentic moment captured...holding hands in Savasana.

The ceremony* in the park later in the afternoon with around 100 folk from all over with delicious food catered by Flow teacher, Laura, and cake/cupcakes created by Adi's mom. Stephanie tried to wrangle everyone into a softball game but everyone seemed more content to lay around and visit and watch the kids play.

Sharing with you the vows that they asked me to facilitate which began with an introduction of me thanking everyone for sharing this time with Adi & Stephanie in their commitment to partner together. Followed by a rose ceremony, their own vows, and a circle of blessing where I asked everyone to write one word on rocks (that I collected from the Zig Zag river the day before with my sweet friend Laurie & her kids) that they thought of when they think of the union. (I wrote "grace". Chole, their daughter wrote:"forever".)

Rose Ceremony :For the mothers, a red rose. Red is symbolic of the yin - the earthly, maternal energy and blessing - your mutual understanding of your earthly and physical agreements.

For the fathers, a white rose. White is symbolic of the yang - the masculine energy and blessing - the purity of your Real Self, your True nature - the purity of God's Love which shines upon you now and always. Your mutual understandings that the highest expression of your partnership is supporting each other spiritually.
For their daughters, a pink rose. Pink - a symbol of grace and elegance, the pink rose is often given as an expression of admiration. Pink roses also convey appreciation as well as joyfulness.

Jai showered with rose petals. (Who was more interested on the ribbons hanging around. : ))

Vows : Adi and Stephanie enter into this marriage understanding that marriage is not about security or getting anything from another...but rather, in knowing that everything you need in life...all the love, wisdom, insight, understanding, compassion and strength resides here and now...within. They have told me that they see marriage as providing opportunities and support for growth, full Self-expression, for lifting your lives to their highest potential, for healing false thoughts and small ideas.

Adi & Steph, you enter into a journey through life with one you love as an equal partner, sharing equally both the authority and the responsibilities inherent in a partnership, bearing together what burdens there be, basking equally in the glories

Give up your small selves and take refuge in each other. To truly take refuge in each other means you should take refuge in all things. This is to live and practice together.

Adi & Stephanie read their vows** that they wrote for one another which were very emotional and heartfelt.

Blessing Circle: A Circle is a symbol of the Sun, and the Earth...a symbol of the eternality of Truth, love and life...

In this moment, Adi and Steph choose for it to be a symbol of unity, not possession; of joining, not restricting, of encirclement, not entrapment.

During this Blessing Circle, you are now invited to share
a song, poem, a few words, or even just one word that is written on your rock, or a moment of sacred silence.

**click for the vows that they read to each other... just gorgeous!



Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Process of pose patience

Reviewing my "priorities" lately: what I would like to see unfold in my life over the next year. Creating a master calendar for the family (working on improving communication!). I sometimes get frustrated that I just can't quite get some things scratched off... I'm really good at making lists but not as consistent at doing the steps necessary to chip away at them!

On my yoga priority list (not the best word since priority conveys a sense of urgency...more like, desire or wish): Adho Muka Vrksasana. I've been working all year on handstand and just about have it in the middle of the room. Although, I'm more in my comfort zone against the wall. Even if I don't touch the wall, mentally, it's there if my arms or center is a little off.

Next up: I'd like to be able to do a dropback (standing into Urdhva Dhanurasana or wheel pose) and eventually, a handstand into wheel. I have a little bit of envy for those who had gymnastics as a child and seem to be able to recall the muscle memory from way back when and can, with a little practice, achieve it. Me, nope. The most I could do as a child- a fun, free-style cartwheel. ; )

My in-box this morning was none other than how to do a dropback from Yoga Journal... Here's some of what Cindi Lee (from OM in NYC) has to say: "Mastering dropbacks can take years, so try not to rush the process. Instead, be curious about it as you evolve on your path toward the pose. Falling back into space takes a lot of faith. Now your job is—you guessed it—to practice, practice, practice. As you do, can you be curious and mindful about that process? It won't be yoga practice if you do it by rote. In other words, when you can pay close attention to your experience as it unfolds, with each breath, each movement, each thought, each asana, and each transition—then you will be in a state of yoga. Don't try to hold on to that state either, but let it be a moment of change, an opening, a transformation."

Sage advise. Don't hurry the process (of most anything), instead consider...the journey as a path to the pose and chip, chipping away at it in the present moment.

(Manny & me, partner dropover from handstand. It's as fun as it looks.)

Monday, July 5, 2010

Kirtan

Last month, David Newman came to Houston for a Kirtan (music & chanting). A song that really was touching for me to hear and see performed live was Like Rain/Radhe Bolo... Like rain is falling, shower blessings on us all. He has a sample of the song on his website, however, I couldn't find a live performance of it. If you've never been to a Kirtan, go. I've been to a number of them now, and every one of them has been different. At some people have danced wildly around the room (you start to wonder if they're on something!?), some have been a sing-a-long with lyrics provided, and another was more like a concert (with 'byob'). In every case, when I stopped worrying about what they were singing about (did it line up with my belief system) or what others were doing (dancing like 12 year olds around the room), or any other judgmental thoughts... and just enjoyed the music and the engaging way it was performed. I allowed myself to be swept up in the energy of it, smiling and sometimes letting tears flow.


Saturday, July 3, 2010

Yoga Sutra 1.27

Tasya Vacakah Pranavah

The word expressive of Isvara (The Devine) is the mysic sound OM. The symbol OM, represents the world and everything in it.

Yoga Sutra 1.27


While in Crested Butte for a yoga retreat with my goregous friends, Laurie and Janet, I was completely delighted to meet Janet's sister, Judy, yogi, author, and owner of the Nordic Inn. I instantly took to her, but when she and her husband graciously invited us to a barbecue at their cabin, and I saw that she named her cabin, The Center Place, from the Zuni saying: "All good things from the Center Place", it sealed the deal. She's someone who you just want to be around because she exudes joy!

Sharing with you one of my favorite poems from her book, Sending Forth the Seed.

My beloved Monks

My beloved monks
Are inside me
melting me gently
with their om.

Oming my heart
Into liquid gold
Drops into puddles,
Circles colliding,
Rings flowing
Outward, outward
From the center place.

I am the one line,
The one tone
That has no opposite.
I am the lone prayer flag
Anchored in the rocks
Fluttering.

My prayers
Ride on the high winds
Above the clouds,
One, one, one
Everywhere
The circle goes.