Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Surprised by joy.

mermaid the woods

“The moments of happiness we enjoy take us by surprise. It is not that we seize them, but that they seize us."
― Ashley Montagu

Natural Bridge State Park was my sanctuary this past week. There was a beautiful clearing with a sculpture garden inhabited by spiders and ants, blooming with flowers and colors so vivid that they appeared to come from a crayon box. Climbing the hill several times a day past waterfalls and resting in this seemingly hidden cove was one of the most refreshing parts of my day. Another friend told me she found a place so magical, that the fairies seemed to live there. After following a path up a hill, dragonflies surrounded her in the midst of moss covered rocks. One afternoon I searched for her secret garden and oddly, I couldn't find it. It must have been meant just for her.

Returning home, resolved not to settle into old patterns, I went outside and walked. Imagining that I was seeing things for the very first time. When was the last time I took a moment to enjoy something I  see everyday? With fresh eyes and renewed perspective, I was delighted not by what I saw but by the renewed joy I felt in just seeking out the hidden gems right where I am: the duck eggs laid in our front yard, the watercolor sunrise, and the squeals (and sometimes laughter) of my boys playing basketball. Surprised by joy.

Monday, May 30, 2011

in honor of

"The only thing you take with you when you're gone is what you leave behind. What will you leave behind?"

Growing up, my mom, brother and I would drive 4 hours north of Dallas to see my grandmother on the family farm in rural Oklahoma, and we would then visit the grave site of our relatives. As a child, I don't even recall which relative's gravesides we visited in the cemetery, we would just place a plastic flower on each grave, nod our heads in prayer just like my Grandma Walker and then drive home in silence. It wasn't until I lost my Granddad Walker in junior high that I realized the significance of physically going to the place where the body rests. And, even then, I only went a hand full of times. Today, more than a decade later, with 2 boys of my own, I'm beginning to see how vital it is that we take time remember our loved ones. Ashamedly, I have not returned to the farm since my grandma passed in 2000. Her passing was traumatic for our family and especially my brother. He just had his third child, Holly, and brought her up to be seen by her great grandmother for the first time on Easter weekend. When they pulled in to peach tree lined drive past the chain link gate, he found the door ajar and my grandmother in the entry way, unmoving. The children stayed in the car but witnessed their parents shock of finding her. Living alone and with no one who could have saved her, we believe it was a stroke that took her.
Grandma Walker & me on the farm

The farm for me holds scores of memories. In my teens, I went to live with there just after my grandfather passed. My great aunt was having cancer treatments in the city, and Grandma Walker had just taken over my aunt's gas station business or the store, as we called it. An organic farmer and  bookkeeper by trade, Grandma Walker was a shrewd business woman who I learned more about operating a business from the 10 months living with her than I had in all my years helping my mother run her Mary Katy business out of our home in Texas. So many days and evenings after school spent with her working in the store, hearing her stories, watching Jeopardy and Lawrence Welk, listening to her laugh when the customers would come in and compliment her on this and that, and mostly just feeling like I could do no wrong. The pure love of a grandparent is something that I will regard for the rest of my life and beyond. Instilling in me a work ethic that embodied saving and reinvesting (a by-product of her depression-era days), she was a woman of uncompromising integrity. I often imagine her at my side when I face life's difficulties, as she overcame so many in her own life. Her sky-blue eyes smiling at me, saying, "Missy Marie, I love you."

In honor of you today, Grandma Walker, holding you in my heart. I love you, too.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Morning Meditation: teens learn the essence of relaxation

Meg's AP History Class
In the classroom (or with any group), stand in a circle, shoulder to shoulder.
Allow your arms to dangle softly by your side; closing the eyes and relaxing them back into their sockets.
Initiate a slow inhale, imagining the breath moving from the middle of the circle inward.
Releasing the breath slowly, feel the spine lengthen from the the soles of your feet up to the crown of your head.
Take 5 more breathes feeling it come from the inner circle down through your body and up and out from your feet.
Open the eyes and reach your arms to the inside of the circle, as a group support one another to sitting.
Sit with legs long, every one's feet touching in the center, arms at sides, 3 breaths.
Hands behind the thighs, roll down slowly.
Left hand to heart, right hand to belly. Elbows rest on the floor.
Let the body go limp and follow the breath like a wave in from the center of the circle, into the belly and out through the heart.
Remain 5-15 minutes or as time allows.
Opening the eyes, stay on your back for as long as you like.*
Take slow movements to stand and rejoin the day.

*Eyes soft, this is a great time to get teens to talk about  anything. they are less vulnerable when they cannot make eye contact with their peers, tending to open and share more freely. Try a discussion on how they felt doing this meditation before you have them come to stand. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

N'awlins is full of hope

driving into the city
We left N'awlins 10 years ago before the birth of my first child. New Orleans at the time, didn't seem to embrace transplants (or at least me) and felt like a foreign country all unto itself.  Living there provided one of my most profound life lessons: surrender.
Everything was so strange and unconventional and yet steeped in generation after generation of traditions and the past. The streets draped by oak trees and shot gun houses varied from unsafe and to something out of the life styles of the rich and famous. I recall even the air in certain parts of the city (not just the French Quarter) smelled like stale beer and humidity which seemed to seep into my skin unwillingly. We lived Uptown near Tulane University in a small 2 bedroom home and could look over our fence and watch beads fly as Mardi Gras parades passed on Claiborne Avenue.
There were things I loved: our first home with a front porch swing and beautiful hard wood floors. Lazy breakfasts reading the Sunday Times Picayune at the local Bluebird Cafe, savoring sweet blueberry pancakes and fresh squeezed orange juice. Mouth watering white chocolate bread pudding from Commander's Palace. The Vinyard music where the band played unconventional instruments for a church: the sax, violin and bongo drums; and even sang and danced barefoot on a small stage.
And then there were the things I despised: Feeling isolated and like I never quite fit in to any part of the  community. The string of "careers" that offered tough teachings. My first job out of college was in outside sales, selling decorative lighting (I counted and sold light bulbs across 4 states), retail sales (a high end Magazine street boutique and the first job I've ever been fired from for being too pushy with my selling technique), Tulane University bookstore assistant manager and clothing buyer (a great learning curve for me but finally had to quit when 12 hour days/6 days a week took their toll), and finally, customer service and marketing assistant for an audio visual company.
Throughout this time, I continued to teach group fitness or aerobics, as it was called in the 90's. I didn't start my yoga journey until after I left NOLA. I can only imagine how different my experience might have been had I embraced or been exposed to the practice while I was there. Today there are studios dotted all across the city.
This past weekend, took me back in time as I traveled there for the first time since 2000 and since Katrina wiped out the city over 3 years ago. My impression was vastly different as the city buzzed with life and was still eerily deserted in many areas. And yet, a renewed feeling of hope prevailed. I met the major's sister at a local coffee shop, and she declared that the New Orleanians that are living there now are the ones who want to be there. With the hurricane, everyone, everyone was forced to leave. The city was empty. To come back meant you would want to live in a city that is in desparate need of restoration and healing and at the same time, at the mercy of a God who could wipe it out with another hurricane.
After a full day of partner workshops and volunteering at an amazing community center brought about through a vision to bring unity and healing to the city by Sean Johnson and the Wild Lotus Yoga Studio, my friend, Cindi and I met a curious photographer from North Carolina who published a book "Passionate People Places New Orleans". His vision was to weave a photographic day in the life of people who adore their city. I think his vignette of the city mirrors the conclusion I finally came to toward the end of my 5 years living in New Orleans: when I finally surrendered to the unknown, and released the perceived control I thought I had, I found freedom.
Approaching life with the spirit of offering opens us up to a world of possibility and most certainly hope.

cindi, stephen & mel exploring local art

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A short History of Yoga

A great podcast summarizing yoga in just about 5 minutes. From Renaissance Yoga Blog.


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Morning Meditation full of grace

Standing, spine long, eyes closed from top to bottom.
Softening the jaw, feeling the breath at the tip of the nose.
Allowing thoughts to come and go.
If discouragement arrives, release the urge to dwell on it.
Replace those thoughts with Grace.
Breathing in, the body is a vessel filling with Grace, Divine Grace.
Breathing out, there is a gentle pouring out of this Grace from our life to the lives we touch today.
Place one palm on the heart, one palm forward and up, receiving and giving Grace.
Smile, softly open the eyes and join the day.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Morning Meditation

"Time is Breath." --GI Gurdjieff

Unable to quiet the mind this morning. Placing a pen and paper next to me when a thought of what I must do arises, I jot it down. Then return to eyes soft, breath even and say "I am breathing in. I am breathing out." Another thought or two written down, until thoughts are no longer regarded important enough to recall and calmness washes over me, as I continue, "I am breathing in. I am breathing out."